Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Rob Riley, while his father was governor, apparently solicited bribes from law firms seeking state contracts, according to veteran attorney Tommy Gallion


Tommy Gallion
Rob Riley, while his father Bob Riley was Alabama governor (2003-11), suggested law firms seeking bond work via state contracts would need to funnel work to his Riley Jackson law firm in Homewood, according to a prominent Montgomery attorney who was involved in the process.

Tommy Gallion, of Haskell Slaughter and Gallion, said Rob Riley ran bond-work meetings as if he were governor. "Rob Riley ran meetings about bond work with the state and required that the winning firm send work to him. Haskell Slaughter had been doing that work for years, and it went to Bradley Arant because they agreed to Rob's terms."

Until recently, Bradley Arant was home to Rob Campbell, Rob Riley's brother-in-law and husband of Minda Riley Campbell (despite Rob Campbell's appearance at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site.) Rob Campbell no longer is listed as an attorney at the Bradley Arant Web site, although the Alabama State Bar still lists him as working there. The firm reportedly raked in more than $10 million in taxpayer funds during the final two years of the Bob Riley administration. From Gallion:

At a meeting of our firm's executive committee meeting, when Bob Riley first took over as governor, Rob Riley appeared. He hinted that he could help our firm get considered in a major state upcoming bond issue, and he would like us to consider associating him in non-state related legal business. Our firm rejected his proposal after he left. Gov. Riley had a press release that he was putting out requests for proposals (RFP's) to all qualified law firms. Haskell Slaughter submitted the low bid, but the work went to his son-in-law's firm, Bradley Arant, who had recently hired him after Gov. Riley was elected. Bradley was the high proposal, and our firm was the low proposal; Bradley was selected by Gov. Riley.

Rob Riley's actions, as described by Gallion, appear to come close to being a classic quid pro quo ("something for something" deal) that forms the heart of federal funds bribery under 18 U.S.C. 666. The five-year statute of limitations clearly has run on Rob Riley's scheme, so why is it news now?

For one, the perjury case against duly elected Jefferson County District Attorney Charles Todd Henderson has Riley Inc.'s grimy fingerprints all over it, especially since Henderson (a Democrat) surprisingly ousted the Rileys' GOP favorite (and incumbent) Brandon Falls. Two, Gv. Kay Ivey has shown that she is willing to recycle members of the Riley Machine, such as general counsel Bryan Taylor, into positions of authority. That suggests the rank corruption of the Riley years could rear its head, with Ivey at the controls.

On top of that, Rob Riley has documented ties to efforts at establishing gaming/business enterprises that would connect Alabama investors and Russian interests. U.S. newspapers currently are filled with headlines about brewing scandals that involve Russian and American political/business figures. One of the biggest stories at the moment centers around Chattanooga property magnate Franklin Haney and his efforts to use a Canadian company (with ties to Russia) to bring a dormant nuclear plant in northeast Alabama back to life.

Rob Riley
A certain Montgomery lawyer had a front-row seat for some of Rob Riley's machinations related to Russia. Consider these words from Tommy Gallion:

My understanding is that Rob and Minda Riley made a substantial amount of money during the eight years their father was governor -- and Rob Riley could not make his house payments when Bob Riley went in.
I can tell you how they funneled the money; I've got all the documents on it. When Bob went to Congress, Rob was up there all the time working deals, and he's connected to big-time gambling interests. I know it first-hand because I invested with him and Robert Sigler. They were best friends . . . and (Sigler) lives in Las Vegas. He came in and did a sales pitch on the Russian lottery to a group of my friends. I actually invested in the pay-by-touch company, which was a helluva company, but to get that I had to get one of the units of this Russian lottery, which I never had any faith in. But (Sigler) raised over $10 million on the Russian lottery, and the money vanished.

They had the money with a bank that had a main office in London, with a branch office in Moscow. Sigler put $10 million in the Russian bank to procure a right to participate in the bid process. The money simply vanished. When everything started falling apart on the lottery, the stockholders -- which were a whole bunch of people in Montgomery -- said, "Where is our money?" Sigler had said, "We've got it protected." I got on the Internet and saw where Rob Riley set up offshore accounts for Sigler.

What happened to the Russian-lottery money and what about those offshore accounts? The answer remains unclear, but Gallion has thoughts on the subject:

I was told that an offshore account was set up in the Canary Islands by someone connected to the missing money. I don't know any more. I was told that Sigler had set one up there for Rob [Riley], but don't know for sure.

Another dubious deal involves Rob Riley's contract to represent the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, headed by Mike Hale. That story begins with Bill Johnson, who was director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) for part of Bob Riley's term. Says Gallion:

A million-dollar federal grant was sent to ADECA for law enforcement in the state. Bob Riley instructed Bill Johnson to send the full $1 million to the sheriff of Jefferson County, Mike Hale. Johnson later found out that to get the money, the sheriff had to put Rob Riley on a large legal retainer. He is still on the retainer.

How did Rob Riley and sister Minda Riley Campbell fare during their father's years as Alabama governor? The answer is "mighty well," according to Tommy Gallion:

I do not know what they made during their father's eight-year term. But I have been told it was substantial.

That is classic Riley-style corruption. With Kay Ivey in the governor's office, it might be returning soon to a theater near you. And with Donald Trump in the White House, the environment might be ripe for more attempted deals involving Alabama and Russia.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Popehat blogger trashed me to The New York Times, but his words about Hulk Hogan lawsuit against Gawker prove his thinking is an inconsistent mess


Ken White, of Popehat blog
You might expect that a First Amendment "expert" would be able to produce consistent thoughts in his area of specialization. But if you are looking for consistency from Ken White, Los Angeles-based attorney and proprietor of the Popehat blog, you likely will be disappointed.

White wormed his way into our lives by trashing me in a New York Times article about my unlawful arrest and incarceration in fall/winter 2013-14 -- all growing from a defamation lawsuit by Alabama GOP thug Rob Riley and his "close friend," lobbyist Liberty Duke.

After acknowledging that Judge Claud Neilson's temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction were unlawful prior restraints under the First Amendment, White decided to engage in classic "blaming the victim." From The Times' article, by reporter Campbell Robertson:

“You’ve got a situation where sometimes there’s no good guys,” said Ken White, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles who writes about and practices First Amendment law. . . .

. . . Mr. White and others say that before a judge can take the step of banning speech, libel must be proved at trial, or at least over a litigation process more involved than a quick succession of hearings, with the only evidence presented by the plaintiffs.

“Idiocy is not a zero-sum game,” Mr. White said. “I think you can say that what the court is doing is unconstitutional and troublesome and also that Shuler is his own worst enemy.”

Does White present any examples that cause him to conclude that I'm "not a good guy" in this matter -- or that "I'm my own worst enemy"? Nope. Is is possible Mr. White and Mr. Robertson were both being just a tad disingenuous? Yep.

Robertson mentions that the National Bloggers Club (NBC), a group led by the Republican activist Ali (Akbar) Alexander, had threatened to sue me for defamation, while failing to mention they had no grounds, under the law, for such a lawsuit, and they never actually filed one. Robertson also neglected to mention that, in the weeks leading to my arrest, Akbar's gang of right-wing mouthbreathers published numerous posts claiming I was "RogerS," a commenter at a liberal blog who was encouraging left-wing activist Brett Kimberlin to file a RICO lawsuit against the NBC. I, of course, was not RogerS and had nothing to do with the Kimberlin-NBC contretemps.

Hulk Hogan, at Gawker trial
Most glaringly, Robertson failed to mention that White had publicly supported the Akbar gang -- even though Akbar himself has a criminal record on the felony level and a history as a troller for gay sex on the Grindr geosocial app -- and even tried to arrange legal help for them in the Kimberlin case. In fact, White sought help for the NBC in a post dated Oct. 20, 2013, three days before my arrest. Hmmm.

Of all the lawyers in the country with knowledge of the First Amendment, Campbell Robertson sought out Ken White (from California) about my case (in Alabama)? And White just happens to be the guy who supported the right-wing blogging loons who had attacked me based on a rumor that had no basis in reality? Again, hmmm.

Even more curious is that White does not seem to agree with himself regarding the First Amendment issues in my case. In 2016, White wrote about the Hulk Hogan lawsuit, funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, that put Gawker Media out of business. From White's Popehat post on the subject:

Gawker has occasionally provided quality journalism and entertainment. That doesn't stop me from despising its amoral and repulsive ethos. Gawker's utter destruction produces a feeling of glee in my guts but disquiet in my heart. As I've written before, I'm not sure that the ruinous verdict against Gawker was just, I don't think that the amount of damages awarded was defensible, and I'm concerned that the result was a product of the brokenness of our legal system.

But observers seem eager to push the wrong message about that brokenness. The scary part of the story isn't that the occasional vengeful billionaire might break the system and overwhelm even a well-funded target with money. Such people exist, but getting sued by them is like getting hit by lightning. No, for most of us the scary part of the story is that our legal system is generally receptive to people abusing it to suppress speech. Money helps do that, but it's not necessary to do it. A hand-to-mouth lunatic with a dishonest contingency lawyer can ruin you and suppress your speech nearly as easily as a billionaire. Will you prevail against a malicious and frivolous defamation suit? Perhaps sooner if you're lucky enough to be in a state with a good anti-SLAPP statute. Or perhaps years later. Will you be one of the lucky handful who get pro bono help? Or will you be like almost everyone else, who has to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect your right to speak, or else abandon your right to speak because you can't afford to defend it?

The system isn't just broken for affluent publications targeted by billionaires. It's broken for everyone, and almost everyone else's speech is at much greater risk. Don't point to Peter Thiel as an exception. He's just a vivid and outlying expression of the rule.

So, there you have it: Ken White admits courts allow plaintiffs (like Rob Riley and Liberty Duke) to abuse the system, by filing malicious and frivolous lawsuits, in order to stifle free speech -- and this was roughly three years after White had admitted an Alabama court ruled unlawfully against me.

Why in the hell was this guy trashing me to The New York Times? I have some thoughts about that, but first, I have another example of Popehat's confused and inconsistent thinking.


(To be continued)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Confidential informant's letter on Brett Kavanaugh has been referred to FBI, and it appears to involve a #MeToo incident with a woman from nominee's past


Brett Kavanaugh
Senate Democrats have referred a confidential informant's letter about U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the FBI for investigation, according to reports today from multiple news sites. The Intercept is reporting that the letter appears to involve an alleged #MeToo incident involving Kavanaugh and a California woman.

CNN is reporting that a committee vote on the Kavanaugh confirmation has been delayed until next week. It's not clear if the delay is related to new information from a confidential informant. From a report at Alternet:

The Intercept and Buzzfeed News are reporting that Democrats in the U.S. Senate have referred a letter concerning Judge Brett Kavanaugh—President Trump’s second nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court—to the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice for investigation. Last week, the Senate held confirmation hearings on Trump’s nominee, with some of the most California’s Kamala Harris and New Jersey’s Cory Booker.

According to The Intercept, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked to see a Kavanaugh-related letter that California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has in her possession. But so far, Feinstein—who is the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee—has declined to share the letter with her colleagues.

Exactly what’s in the letter remains unclear. But according to The Intercept, the letter was written by someone associated with Stanford University and may describe an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman that occurred when they were in high school. The Stanford associate gave the letter to Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo, who represents the Northern California district where Stanford is located and passed the letter along to Feinstein.

On September 13, BuzzFeed reported that it had contacted the woman believed to be the subject of the letter, but she declined to comment. However, Democratic Sen. Dick Durban of Illinois did speak to BuzzFeed on September 13, saying, “This matter has been referred to the FBI for investigation.”

BuzzFeed also contacted Eshoo’s office, which declined to comment on the contents of the letter, noting, “Our office does not discuss casework.”

Feinstein’s office, as of 1 p.m. EST on September 13, had declined to give BuzzFeed or any other news outlet a comment. But Feinstein said that an official statement about the letter would be forthcoming later in the day.

From a report at The Intercept, which conjures up memories of Anita Hill's testimony in the hearing on Clarence Thomas' confirmation:

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have privately requested to view a Brett Kavanaugh-related document in possession of the panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, but the senior California senator has so far refused, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.

The specific content of the document, which is a letter from a California constituent, is unclear, but Feinstein’s refusal to share the letter has created tension on the committee, particularly after Feinstein largely took a back seat to her more junior colleagues last week, as they took over Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings with protests around access to documents.

The letter took a circuitous route to Feinstein, the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. It purportedly describes an incident that was relayed to someone affiliated with Stanford University, who authored the letter and sent it to Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who represents the area.

Different sources provided different accounts of the contents of the letter, and some of the sources said they themselves had heard different versions, but the one consistent theme was that it describes an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman while they were in high school. Kept hidden, the letter is beginning to take on a life of its own.

Eshoo passed the letter to her fellow Californian, Feinstein. Word began leaking out on the Hill about it, and Feinstein was approached by Democrats on the committee, but she rebuffed them, Democratic sources said. Feinstein’s fellow senators want their own opportunity to gauge whether or not the letter should be made public, rather than leaving it to Feinstein to make that call unilaterally. The sources were not authorized to speak on the record, and said that no senators on the committee, other than Feinstein, have so far been able to view the letter.

Bob Woodward's latest blockbuster is about Donald Trump's "war on truth," but the famed reporter could write several volumes about the U.S. "war on law"


Bob Woodward
Acclaimed journalist Bob Woodward, speaking to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow this week, said his new book essentially is about the Trump administration's "war on truth." That is a profound statement, but it doesn't go far enough, in our view.

The release of Fear: Trump in the White House has been one of the biggest news stories of the past week. By all accounts that we've read, it's another stunning chapter in Woodward's long career as a ground-breaking reporter. But there is another war under way on the American landscape, and it might be even more dangerous than Trump's jihad against the truth. We call it the "war on law," and we've been reporting on it since Legal Schnauzer started in June 2007.

You might say Trump's "war on truth" dates to June 2015, when he announced his run for the presidency. The "war on law" goes back much further than that. The late Monroe Freedman, considered the modern-day father of legal ethics, spoke about it in 1989. Karl Rove and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched an effort to buy Southern appellate courts in 1994, and that essentially was an official declaration of war on the law.

What impact does this have on our democracy? It destroys fundamental constitutional protections, such as due process and equal protection. Those quaint notions already are on life support in many jurisdictions.

As for Trump, he is conducting a war both on truth and the law. His appointment of the abominable Jeff Sessions as attorney general -- with his long history of political prosecutions -- showed an utter disrespect for the rule of law. His nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court of Brett Kavanaugh, who lied repeatedly to Congress during his confirmation hearings, is a classic case of placing political considerations over the law.

Let's consider two examples of the "war on law" in our personal experience. They involve both Alabama state and federal courts, from our first encounter with a legal matter to a matter that is pending as we type:


Trampling the law of trespassing

Our legal nightmare began when Shelby County District Judge Ron Jackson found Mike McGarity, our former neighbor with the lengthy criminal record, not guilty of trespassing -- even though McGarity admitted under oath that he had committed the offense as charged.

Jackson butchered the facts and the law in a variety of ways. But here is the one that really stands out, citing the judge's words from a court transcript:

"I'm going to find that you had to give written warning, and there is reasonable doubt about whether the warning was received prior to the trespass. Therefore, I am going to acquit. But Mr. McGarity, you certainly are on notice now, and if you return here on these issues, the result might be different."

Jackson found that we had to give McGarity written warning to stay off our property. Is that a correct reading of Alabama law -- or law anywhere, for that matter? Not even close. Jackson made it up -- in crude terms, he pulled it out of his ass. The real law can be found in a case styled Chambers v. City of Opelika, 698 So. 2d 792 (Ala. Crim. App., 1996). From the Chambers opinion:

The appellant has cited no authority for his position that to be guilty of criminal trespass the intruder must be aware that he or she had no license or privilege to enter or to remain on the premises. There is authority, however, that states that when those premises are private and not open to the public, there is no requirement that the prosecution prove that a prior written or verbal warning was given to the intruder.

As you can see, no property owner (or renter, for that matter) is obligated to warn an intruder. If that were the case, there would be no such thing as private property in the United States. Rather, it is the would-be trespasser's obligation to make sure he is "licensed, privileged, or invited" to be on the property. McGarity admitted he was on our property, and he never claimed any of those defenses, so he was guilty. Jackson's finding of "not guilty" allowed McGarity to file a baseless malicious prosecution case against me -- and all of our other legal travails flow from that. Had Jackson decided the McGarity matter lawfully, none of our other legal cases would have happened -- and 18 years of our lives would not have been ruined.


Jerking around with the statute of limitations

Our pending "Jail Case" in the Northern District of Alabama provides a recent example of courtroom crookedness. It involves the statute of limitations and shows U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins can't get even the simplest matters correct.

Hopkins 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 (SOL) for claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 had
expired.

Virginia Emderson Hopkins
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 -- and Hopkins is correct, up to a point..

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 ticking on a Sec. 1983 claim in Alabama, or any other state? The U.S. Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) answered that question in a case styled 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).

So, what does federal law say on the matter? Here is how the U.S. Supreme Court put it in 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.”

How does Hopkins butcher the law on this issue? By simply ignoring what Wallace v. Kato actually says. Hopkins claims "the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the facts which would support a cause of action are apparent or should be apparent to a person with a reasonably prudent regard for his rights." From that, Hopkins concludes that the SOL began to run when I was arrested, when my imprisonment began.

But that is not the law in cases of alleged false arrest and false imprisonment, as Wallace makes clear. You will notice the citation in Wallace to Restatement of Torts. The Restatement is a volume on U.S. common law, which applies across the country. It provides perhaps the most clearly worded statement on the SOL issue in our case:

“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.

This is not only succinctly stated law, it's also common sense. If Hopkins' version of the law was legit, someone could have you falsely arrested, keep you in jail for two years, and you would have no legal recourse  once you got out. I was kept in jail for a little more than five months, and the SOL on my claims began to accrue when my imprisonment ended. It's undisputed that our claims were filed within two years after my release from the Shelby County Jail -- and that's when the SOL began to accrue.

Virginia Emerson Hopkins can't get that right because she is a sycophant for Jeff Sessions and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), and they are two of the "generals" in the war on law.

Bob Woodward could write several volumes on that war, and he would be doing a huge service for our citizenry.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey likely is using state funds for "Luv Guv" Bentley's defense to help pave the way for Bellefonte nuclear project, with its ties to Russia


Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason
 Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is providing a taxpayer-funded defense for former Gov. Robert Bentley in the Spencer Collier lawsuit probably because she is trying to pave the way for a plan to resurrect the dormant Bellefonte nuclear plant in northeast Alabama, says a state political insider. Like much of Alabama's corruption, the shady deal appears to involve Russian interests, from a country notorious for its rampant organized crime.

Bill Britt, editor of Alabama Political Reporter (APR), reported earlier this week that Bentley's high-priced lawyers from Maynard Cooper and Gale of Birmingham are playing hardball on discovery, stonewalling on producing the names of donors to the ACEGOV nonprofit, which has become known as Bentley's "Girlfriend Fund" because it was used to pay his mistress and senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Why the determination to stiff the Collier legal team on discovery? Jill Simpson -- opposition researcher, whistle blower, and retired attorney -- says it likely is because Chattanooga real-estate mogul Franklin Haney was a prominent donor to ACEGOV. And he is the money man behind the Bellefonte project.

That brings us to another question that Bill Britt raised: Why is the Ivey administration so doggedly defending Bentley instead of putting the matter to rest? Simpson says it's likely because Ivey supports the Bellefonte project on behalf of what Simpson calls the "Alabama Gang" of corrupt right-wing politicos -- including such luminaries as "Luv Guv" Bentley, former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, former Gov. Bob Riley, and former Business Council of Alabama (BCA) president Bill Canary.

Bellefonte nuclear plant

The money trail can be difficult to follow, so we ask you to follow these bouncing balls:

(1) Haney reportedly engaged the services of Donald Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen to help arrange financing for the Bellefonte project from Qatari interests. The meeting, aboard Haney's yacht, came days before federal agents raided Cohen's office, and it could be of interest to investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The meeting also came before Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign-finance violations.

(2) Haney has reached an agreement with SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian engineering firm, to finish at least one of two reactors at Bellefonte -- with the assistance of federal loan guarantees.

(3) SNC-Lavalin has a history of working on various projects with Russian interests, via the VEB Bank, which has close ties to Vladimir Putin. reputed mobster Oleg Deripaska, and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort (who has been found guilty of financial crimes.)

(4) SNC-Lavalin is under a criminal inquiry in Canada, related to allegations of fraud on its engineering and construction projects.

Sounds like a quagmire, doesn't it? Jill Simpson seems to think so. From one of several Facebook posts on the subject:


The Mueller bunch, if they question Mr. Haney and Mr Cohen, might want to ask if the $10 million is coming from Mr Haney or from the Russian branch of SNC-Lavalin, a  division that is owned 51 percent by the Russian government and controlled by Vladimir Putin.

The press might want to ask why Jeff Sessions' DOJ guy, Rod Rosenstein (who owes his current job to Chuck Cooper. Sessions' lawyer) and Mueller why they haven't arrested Mr Cohen's co-conspirator, Mr Haney. I suspect they are protecting Sessions, as Mr Haney knows all about the Sessions Alabama Gang of crooks, who have this nuclear deal going with a company that is owned in large part by Putin's government bank. 
Kay Ivey
I don't know about most Alabamians, but I don't want a Russian-backed company, like SNC-Lavalin, putting in a nuclear plant near where I live. The Russian government stole our election, and God only knows what they might do with a nuclear plant.

I am pretty certain Mr Haney is just the middle man in this deal. . . . We still have the dark money connected to Bentley's girlfriend fund. We call it the "Governor of Alabama Pussy fund," suppoted by folks friendly with the Russian government and,in fact partners with Russian bank VEB.

God, these Russians are slick. It's so funny that Kay Ivey is overseeing Bentley legal defense so that Russian dark money from Haney and SNC-Lavalin does not become known to the public. The whole Alabama Gang ticket has been pushing for Haney and SNC-Lavalin (a Russian-government-bank company) gets their nuclear plant.

What could all of this mean for the United States down the road? The picture might not be pretty, Simpson writes:

I have been . . . spending a lot of time tracking the contract Mr Haney has with SNC-Lavalin on Bellefonte. So I thought I would share that Mr Haney has asked the Alabama Gang of GOP politicians to help him get $5 billion in a U.S. government loans to complete the nuclear plant, located near Scottsboro, Alabama.

The company he plans on giving the money to do this has close ties to the Russian government. Its name is SNC-Lavalin. Mr Haney reportedly is working with the Canadian company in multiple places, but that is only half true, as the company also operates out of Moscow and has close ties to the Russian government -- and to Vladimir Putin and his oligarchs. So everyone is real clear, this company will be finishing a U.S.  nuclear plant. That sounds like a security matter that should not be allowed at all.

Also, SNC-Lavalin was awarded a huge Russian Arctic contract that I have been tracking for several years now.

Kay Ivey essentially has been running a 2018 "trust me" campaign for governor, refusing to debate Democrat Walt Maddox and saying almost nothing of substance. Perhaps she should address questions about her support for a Russia-backed project that will place a nuclear plant -- on TVA authorities have said is not even needed -- in the backyards of Alabama citizens.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Luv Guv" Bentley hides donors to his "Girlfriend Fund," as reports surface of payoffs to media for favorable coverage during the Rebekah Mason scandal


Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is being pushed in the Spencer Collier lawsuit for information about donors to an alleged "Girlfriend Fund." Bentley's taxpayer-funded legal team, however, filed a response last week that suggests a continuing effort to stonewall regarding the fund, which reportedly served multiple purposes -- including possible payoffs to members of the media for positive coverage -- according to a report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR).

The notion of payoffs for positive coverage of Bentley and his relationship with senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason might be the flip side to reports that the administration used state resources to conduct retaliatory investigations of Donald Watkins and yours truly -- the two online journalists who reported on the Bentley-Mason story for roughly seven months before the mainstream media (MSM) took serious notice.

John Archibald and Chuck Dean, of al.com, were among the MSM reporters who largely ignored the scandal -- and even attacked me, as the journalist who broke the story -- until audiotapes surfaced,  proving the affair and making it impossible to ignore. Were Archibald, Dean, and their news organization paid to look the other way on the "Luv Guv" Bentley story?

That is one of several interesting questions raised by APR's latest report, from editor Bill Britt. Here is another: Why is Gov. Kay Ivey continuing to use state dollars to fund Bentley's defense?

Officially, the fund in question is called ACEGOV, but insiders have come to know it as the "Girlfriend Fund." Reports Britt:

Known in political circles as the "Girlfriend Fund,” because it paid money to Bentley’s alleged girlfriend, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, ACEGOV is a 501(c)(4) set-up in Feb. 2015, by Bentley’s then-General Counsel Cooper Shattuck to promote Bentley’s political agenda.

Kay Ivey
 Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration continues to pay tens of thousands in legal fees to protect Bentley in his lawsuit with Collier.

A team of lawyers from Maynard Cooper and Gale, led by Harvard educated attorney, John C. Neiman Jr., represent Bentley with the state footing the ever-growing legal bill.

Why is information about ACEGOV's financial backers so sensitive? Britt addresses that question:

Over a year ago, when it became clear that Ivey would replace Bentley as governor, a member of Ivey’s inner-circle approached Collier with a suggested promise of a resolution. However, since taking office, Ivey’s administration has spent hundreds of thousands to defend Bentley. . . .

Why Ivey changed her position on a resolution with Collier is unknown, but those close to the lawsuit believe certain individuals and companies that supported ACEGOV don’t want to suffer the humiliating blowback from their names being exposed by Collier’s lawsuit.

Collier was fired from his position at ALEA after he refused to follow Bentley’s order to lie to prosecutors in the Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard criminal case. . . .

Collier’s firing grew out of actions taken by Hubbard’s attorney Lance Bell, who in January 2016, contacted ALEA to arrange for attorney and radio host Baron Coleman to issue a complaint accusing prosecutor Matt Hart of leaking grand jury information. Bell’s actions are recounted in an affidavit by Hal Taylor, current ALEA Secretary.

Does ACEGOV, in many ways, represent the underbelly of Alabama politics? Britt suggests the answer is yes, and those who helped support the fund apparently know it:

Not only does Collier’s lawsuit raise questions about the state’s choice of representation; it also unearths a long suspected question as to why Gov. Ivey would go to such great lengths to protect Bentley.

Collier is asking the court to compel Bentley to identify donors he solicited to fund ACEGOV or those who contributed to the fund of which he has personal knowledge. It is widely suspected that a who’s who of business owners and corporate entities funded the non-profit to curry favor with Mason, who was Bentley’s close adviser.

Suggested payoffs to news outlets and radio talk show hosts for favorable coverage of the Bentley administration is also believed to have been part of ACEGOV’s secret mission.

According to Bentley’s state-funded legal team, “Collier’s motion makes baseless assertions that are not supported by the evidence.”

Perhaps the bigger question being asked in Montgomery is why is the Ivey administration so doggedly defending Bentley instead of putting the matter to rest?

Monday, September 10, 2018

From Dawn Wells, of Gilligan's Island fame, to oily Missouri politician Jason Kander, crowdfunding has proven to be useful for good and evil purposes


Dawn Wells
Crowdfunding Web sites have produced some of the most heart-warming stories of the past eight years or so. They also have produced some of the most outraging stories. We have seen examples of both kinds of stories in recent days -- and they remind us of at least one instance where political opportunists used a crowdfunding site in an abusive and dishonest fashion.

At its essence, Legal Schnauzer is a site about the human tendency to lie, cheat, and steal -- especially in matters of law and politics. So, these stories about the good and evil crowdfunding sites can generate catch our attention. We obviously are not alone in our focus on human deceit; is it any wonder that a prominent political blog is called Crooks and Liars?

On the heart-warming side is a story about Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann in the hit TV series Gilligan's Island. From a report at Yahoo!

As we learned from former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens, who people tried to shame after they learned he was working at Trader Joe’s, just because someone appeared in a hit TV show doesn’t mean they’re set for life. Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island (an iconic character on an iconic show), is broke after a “life-threatening surgery” and is soliciting donations to get herself back on her feet via GoFundMe.

Gilligan’s Island star Dawn Wells . . . has fallen on hard times due to unexpected health issues and is getting money from a crowdfunding campaign. “I don’t know how this happened,” she wrote on Facebook. “I thought I was taking all the proper steps to ensure my golden years. Now, here I am, no family, no husband, no kids, and no money.”

In the 24 hours since news broke that Wells — who had an “unexpected accident that required hospitalization for two months” and needed “a very long time” after that “to rest and heal,” according to her makeup artist friend Dugg Kirkpatrick, who started the campaign — was in need, the fundraiser has collected over $50,000 toward the $180,000 goal. (The campaign was launched on Aug. 27.) The most recent campaign update says Wells found an apartment “in a fab retirement village” in Glendale, Calif. The actress has since spoken out about the “outpouring” — and opened up a little about what got her there.

Wells, 79, described herself as “amazed at the kindness and affection,” in a post on Facebook. “A dear dear friend of mine with a big heart was trying to help me with some common issues we all understand and some must face.” He created the fundraiser “with the love [and] emotion” of “someone protecting their child” after she told him in a recent conversation, “‘I don’t know how this happened. I thought I was taking all the proper steps to ensure my golden years. Now, here I am, no family, no husband, no kids, and no money.'”

Wells, who was married to talent agent Larry Rosen for five years in the ’60s — during her Gilligan’s Island run — ended by saying she’s “grateful that God has given me so many friends and fans who care, or it would all be too … overwhelming.” She also added that her outlook is “positive” and she looks forward to connecting with her generous fans “in my travels.”

As of Sunday (9/9), the Wells campaign had raised $180,091, passing its goal of $180,000. Even in the age of Trump, that kind of makes you feel good.

Dawn Wells, as Mary Ann, on
"Gilligan's Island"
This makes you feel not so good.  A New Jersey couple had raised money via GoFundMe to help a homeless veteran, but now they face charges that they kept a sizable portion of the funds for themselves. From a repor at Huffington Post:

Authorities executed a search warrant to swarm the home of the South Jersey couple a homeless man has accused of withholding close to a half-million dollars in GoFundMe cash.

As first reported by Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV, investigators were seen raiding Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico’s home in Bordentown Thursday morning. Authorities were reportedly seen removing bags of items from the residence. A black BMW was also reportedly towed.

The Burlington County Prosecutors Office has since confirmed the search was related to allegations levied against the couple by a homeless vet.

“Due to the enormous public interest in this matter, I am confirming that a search warrant was executed early this morning by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office and the Florence Township Police Department at the residence of Mark D’Amico and Katelyn McClure in connection with a criminal investigation into the Johnny Bobbitt matter.

The move comes one day after Superior Court Judge Paula Dow ordered the couple to appear in court next week with a full accounting of the funds they collected for Bobbitt.

Bobbitt filed a lawsuit against the couple last month. Philadelphia attorney Chris Fallon, who is representing Bobbitt, has alleged the couple spent a large portion of the donations on gambling, lavish trips, shopping sprees and a BMW.

As for the use of crowdfunding for shady political purposes, we turn to former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander. A Democrat, Kander lost a 2016 U.S. Senate run against GOP incumbent Roy Blunt. But like many members of the political-grifters class, Kander isn't going quietly into the good night. He has announced a run for mayor of Kansas City, and that brings his dubious use of crowdfunding back into the picture. From an Andrew Kreig report at the Justice-Integrity Project:

Missouri’s Democratic U.S. Senate nominee has orchestrated deceptive campaign finance and organizational practices, according to allegations filed anonymously before seven federal and state oversight bodies.

Jason Kander . . . and his allies allegedly devised a secret agenda behind a state referendum plan ostensibly to help children with increased tax on tobacco products, for example.

But the “Raise Your Hands 4 Kids” ballot referendum was concocted as a sweetheart deal for the tobacco companies, according to the 127-page memo, and also as an organizing tool in Republican-dominated rural Missouri for what pollsters say is surprisingly strong Senate race by Kander. Alleged manipulation of Tthe New York Times best-seller list and crowd-funding for charitable purposes are among the other allegations.

Allegations involving The New York Times best-seller list and crowdfuding involve Diana Kander, Jason's wife. Reports Kreig, citing a letter filed with government oversight agencies:

Highly summarized, since 2014, the Kanders have perpetrated at least two ostensibly criminal schemes. First, in Spring 2014, compelling evidence shows that the Kanders operated a fraudulent Internet "crowdfunding" scheme to raise and collect online public charitable donations, money which the Kanders then used in an insider scheme to help buy new-author Diana Kander's way onto The New York Times bestseller list — so future U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander would look good if his wife was (supposedly) "a New York Times Bestselling Author."

Jason and Diana Kander
 Secondly, since at least November 2014, compelling evidence suggests that Jason Kander has exercised actual and demonstrable behind-the-scenes control of a Missouri nonprofit "public benefit" (charitable) corporation, called "Raise Your Hand For Kids" ("RYH4K'J. Kander and close accomplices then directed this charitable "Kids" corporation to serve as an advocacy group to promote a ballot initiative campaign in Missouri called "Raise Your Hands For Kids" ("RYH4K").

Then, U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander and close accomplices collected, on behalf of RYH4K, more than $5 million in corporate and individual contributions — including $2 million-plus in individual public donations from Missourians who were solicited to donate money to help the "Kids."

Then, because RYH4K is in fact a "candidate controlled" ballot measure committee ("CCBMC'J, controlled by U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander, this allowed U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander, and accomplices, to treat RYH4K's $5 million-plus in corporate contributions and individual donations as candidate Kander's $5 million political "slush fund" to use as Kander deems best to further his political candidacy, and personal ambition, to win election and capture a U.S. Senate seat.


Here are details about Diana Kander's use of crowdfunding to become a "best-selling author:

Among additional allegations, the memo alleges that Diana Kander achieved her status as a “best-selling author” and paid speaker [largely] by raising funds in a deceptive manner in part via crowd-funding site Indiegogo, and then paying experts to game the best-seller system. 
Those methods have long raised concerns elsewhere, as indicated by such 2013 stories as The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike: How Are Some Authors Landing On Best-Seller Lists? They’re Buying Their Way by Wall Street Journal reporter Jeffrey Trachtenberg and Here’s How You Buy Your Way Onto The New York Times Bestseller List, by Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici.

We are pleased to see that Dawn Wells is recovering from a rough patch in her life. As for those who would use crowdfunding for fraudulent purposes, we can think of a warm spot where perhaps they should spend eternity.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Documents at Kavanaugh hearings suggest nominee committed perjury in 2006 statements that he was not involved in nomination of Alabama's Bill Pryor -- raising questions anew about Pryor's ties to gay porn


Did SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh
help cover up Judge Bill Pryor's ties
to gay pornography via badpuppy.com? 


Bill Pryor, from his gallery of
gay-porn photos.
Brett Kavanaugh lied to Congress in 2004about his involvement in the nomination of Alabama's Bill Pryor to the federal bench, and that constitutes perjury that should lead to Kavanaugh's impeachment from his current position on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to an article from one of the nation's leading law blogs.

Kavanaugh told the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2004, under oath, that he was not involved in the Pryor nomination. But documents released yesterday in Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) show he was involved in the process that led to Pryor landing on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Elie Mystal, executive editor at Above the Law (ATL), says the documents released by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) prove Kavanaugh committed perjury before Congress in 2004. From Mystal's article, which is titled "Brett Kavanaugh perjured himself. He should be impeached from the D.C. Circuit soon: Are Republicans really going to confirm a judge who will need to be impeached?":

Since Kavanaugh’s perjury occurred in [2004], Democrats in the House should move NOW to impeach Kavanaugh. Papers should be drawn up by tomorrow.

We should have a House vote on the impeachment of Kavanaugh from the D.C. Circuit before we have a Senate vote on his confirmation. Each House member running for reelection this fall should be asked to vote on whether a member of the Court of Appeals can lie to Congress and still have his job.

And we should be able to know the answer to that question before we ask senators to vote on his nomination. Potentially, they’ll need to conduct an impeachment trial on Kavanaugh before they can vote on his confirmation.

That's powerful stuff, and it hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer.  That's because in September 2013 we broke the story that Pryor, while a college student, posed nude for photographs that wound up at the gay-pornography site badpuppy.com. Our posts were picked up by numerous Web sites around the country (including Above the Law) and reportedly played a major role in Pryor falling out of favor as a possible Donald Trump appointee to SCOTUS.

Bill Pryor: Robed and disrobed
Less than two weeks after I broke the Pryor/BadPuppy story, Alabama law-enforcement officers started paying visits to our home. Within days, I learned that GOP operative and Pryor ally Rob Riley (son of former Gov. Bob Riley) had filed a defamation lawsuit related to my reporting on his personal relationship with a lobbyist named Liberty Duke.

On the evening of Oct. 23, 2013 -- after an unflattering post that morning about Pryor's ties to the tobacco industry -- deputies broke into our home, beat me in our garage, doused me with pepper spray, and hauled me for a five-month stay in the Shelby County Jail. That's all without a whiff of any criminal allegation. I became the first U.S. journalist since 2006 to be incarcerated and likely the first person in U.S. history to be arrested for blogging -- and to be jailed because of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that have been unlawful under more than 230 years of First Amendment law.

How does our experience intersect with revelations yesterday at the Kavanaugh hearings? Many ways are possible, but this might be the key question: Did Kavanaugh know about Pryor's history with gay porn, did he help Pryor skirt that issue in the confirmation process -- and would documents currently being withheld prove that Kavanaugh helped cover for Pryor?

How did issues of Brett Kavanaugh, Bill Pryor, and perjury arise in yesterday's hearings? Elie Mystal explains:

Take ideology out of it for a second. Yes, documents heroically released today by Senator Cory Booker show Brett Kavanaugh’s antipathy towards minorities and willingness to entertain Korematsu-style racial profiling. Yes, documents obtained by the AP show Kavanaugh’s willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Those views are problematic, but typical of modern American conservatives.

What’s atypical, or at least we’re told it’s atypical, is for American conservatives to suborn perjury. But that’s what they’re doing by supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. During today’s confirmation hearings, Brett Kavanaugh was shown to have perjured himself before Congress in [2004].

In [2004], Kavanaugh told Ted Kennedy that he was “not involved” in Bill Pryor’s nomination to the Eleventh Circuit. In fact, he was involved. In documents made public during Senator Pat Leahy’s questioning, Kavanaugh is shown to have recommended Pryor, and invited to actively discuss Pyror’s hearings.

Mystal provides more background about the perjury, and it shows that Kavanaugh has a tendency to be involved with partisan skulduggery:

In a world where the President of the United States will lie about what time it is while standing in front of a clock, this may seem like de minimis lying. We’ve become so accustomed to people lying and then still being put in positions of public trust that we tend to forget that truthfulness should be a minimum requirement for office.

But there’s more. Kavanaugh had a good, albeit nefarious, reason to lie to Ted Kennedy. His involvement in those hearings was aided by documents stolen from Senator Leahy and other senators on the Judiciary Committee. Documents released today show that Kavanaugh was on emails which had, and I’m not making this up, “SPYING” in the actual subject head:

When pressed by Senator Leahy, Kavanaugh said that he didn’t know he was working with stolen information (for hearings he lied about working on). Leahy said, “I was born at night, but not last night.” Leahy said that he couldn’t believe that Kavanaugh was in possession of stolen information, and used, and testified differently.

This. Is. Perjury.

Is the Republican Party willing to address this in a serious fashion? That remains unclear, but Mystal shows that it is, in fact, very serious:

That should be game over. As much as I disagree with the ideology of conservatives, I refuse to believe that they can’t find one who believes what they believe and yet doesn’t lie before Congress.

Patrick Leahy and Brett Kavanaugh
Sadly, it probably won’t be enough to shake even two Republicans from their appointed task of destroying the integrity of institutions they now control. It would be so simple for Republican senators to say, “This conservative lied to us. Please Dear Leader, nominate a different one so we can vote for him with honor.”

Remember, even Mitch McConnell didn’t want this particular nominee. He thought there were conservatives who would be easier to confirm. Kavanaugh was pushed by Jeff Sessions and Don McGahn, two people President Trump now hates. It would be simple for Republicans to take a stand here, and thereby generate a smidgen of credibility that they place integrity above ideology.

I’m not going to hold my breath.

Perhaps some historical perspective is in order -- and Mystal provides it:

Which brings us to impeachment. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, the Democrats will now have grounds to call for his impeachment every single day for the literal rest of his natural life. He perjured himself before Congress. We now have more on him than we had on Bill Clinton.

Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution does not reserve impeachment for the president. It is a remedy that can be used against any federal officer. The procedure is the same, the House votes for impeachment, the Senate, by supermajority, votes to convict.

In our history, two presidents have been impeached, one senator, and… 15 judges. Eight of those judges have been convicted, though that hasn’t happened since 1805. While Kavanaugh and his ilk might want to bring us back to 1805, that’s not really the kind of precedent we should hang the integrity of the Supreme Court upon.

But, remember, I said impeachment applies to all federal officials. Kavanaugh is still very much a federal official — he’s a member of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

What if Brett Kavanaugh isn't the only federal judge who should be subject to scrutiny regarding perjury? What if Bill Pryor also lied to Congress and should be the target of impeachment proceedings? We have addressed that issue before:

That brings us to Pryor's Senate confirmation hearing. It is standard for a federal nominee to be asked, under oath, if there is anything in his background that might embarrass him or the president who nominated him. Pryor has known the nude photos were public since at least September 1997, and our sources say he likely did not disclose their existence to FBI and Senate investigators.

What are the possible implications of that? Here is how we answered that question in an earlier post:

Could Pryor face serious consequences if it is shown he made false statements to officials looking into his background? Based on the impeachment and removal of Louisiana federal judge Thomas Porteous in 2010, the answer might be yes.

One of the articles of impeachment against Porteous involved his failure to disclose information to investigators--and his false statements during pre-confirmation regarding any background information that might prove embarrassing to him and the president who nominated him, Bill Clinton.

Did Pryor withhold information that would embarrass him and George W. Bush? We don't have a certain answer at the moment, but it appears likely.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Racism apparently drives Indiana woman to turn peaceful street into a battleground, much like our experience in Alabama with Blue Cross and Blue Shield employee Mike McGarity and his criminal record





When you have lived next door to a "Neighbor From Hell," it's somehow comforting to know that others have gone through the same miserable experience. That was my first thought recently after a dispatch from Indianapolis crossed our news desk about a 67-year-old woman who apparently has made it her mission in life to be an asshole to the people who live around her.

A video of Vicki New tearing up "No Trespassing" signs, throwing the pieces at her neighbors, and threatening to kill them went viral last week after one of the neighbors, Luvia Roman, posted it on her Facebook page. (See videos above and at the end of this post.) Last Wednesday, New was in the Marion County Jail on preliminary charges of criminal trespass and battery resulting in bodily injury. The county prosecutor's office said it is still reviewing the case before formal charges are filed.

The story even made Newsweek, which reported that the dispute has involved issues over property lines and calls to police, who seemed unable to get the situation under control.

If much of this sounds familiar, that's because it's a lot like our experience in Birmingham, Alabama, with a criminally inclined neighbor named Mike McGarity.

McGarity, his son, and guests trespassed on our property numerous times; McGarity threatened to sue us for attempting to protect our property rights; and we repeatedly were the targets of vandalism -- including an effort to burn down our mail box and having a metal object thrown at night through our front window. Also, McGarity fenced in about 400 square feet of our back yard -- and when we had the property re-surveyed and forced him to move his fence -- he refused to compensate us for land that he had essentially stolen.

We did not learn until later that McGarity has at least eight criminal convictions on his record; the records we found all involved misdemeanors, but they included offenses involving sex and violence.

It came as no surprise when McGarity struck me in the back with a roadside sign, which constituted a felony assault, under the law, but officials in Shelby County, AL, wrongly claimed it was a misdemeanor. (Much more on that incident, which included an eyewitness report, in a series of upcoming posts.)

The response from law enforcement on the assault was typical of deputies' inability to enforce Alabama's criminal-trespass law. Ms. Roman and her companion, Miguel Rios, apparently have faced a similarly inept response from cops in Indianapolis -- at least until New was stupid enough to get caught acting like a bully on a video that went viral. Only then did Indiana cops do something that might help resolve the situation.

Despite his lengthy criminal record, McGarity managed to find a job with a reputable employer -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama -- which, as a federal Medicare contractor, is supposed to do extensive background checks on potential employees. The BC/BS background-check process apparently is deeply flawed because it allowed McGarity to slip through the cracks.

While we essentially were dealing with a career criminal, the Indiana case apparently is driven by a neighbor who appears to be a racist. From the Newsweek account:

Miguel Rios and Luvia Roman are faced with the difficult situation of living next door to a woman who has allegedly harassed them repeatedly.

The couple lives in Indianapolis and Roman told Newsweek that they purchased their home about a year and a half ago. Since moving in, they’ve had multiple problems with their neighbor, including having the health department, narcotics and child protective services called to their home.

Roman explained that part of her believes it’s been a targeted attempt to get them to move because they’re Hispanic, but the woman also had problems with people in the neighborhood who are white. Roman posted a video of Sunday’s confrontation on Facebook, during which the woman is seen pulling a “no trespassing” sign out of the grass, snapping it over her knee and throwing the pieces at Rios.

“Touch me, I’ll kill you,” she tells Rios, who advised her to calm down.

The woman then takes a second “no trespassing” sign and does the same thing, snapping it in two and throwing it at the couple. She calls the couple “trash” and Roman encouraged her to call the police and have them come to the neighborhood. At least one other neighbor can be heard yelling from what appears to be across the street and the woman tells her to go “back in her f**king house” before making an obscene gesture.

What led up to this? Newsweek provides background:

Roman told Newsweek that there have been disputes over property lines in the past and to resolve the issue, she purchased the signs, the woman agreed to have them put up and a police officer put them in the woman’s yard.

However, on Friday night, when Rios and Roman came back from dinner, the signs had been thrown in their driveway. On Sunday, while Rios was cleaning his car, he put the signs back up in her yard, where the officer had placed them, which is when the confrontation ensued.

Roman and Rios aren’t the only ones in the neighborhood to feel threatened by the woman and Corey Banks, who lives across the street and witnessed the encounter, told WFTS that she’s called him the n-word multiple times.

Another neighbor told WFTS that the woman has harassed multiple neighbors who are minorities and one family ended up breaking their lease and moving out because the woman made living there “unbearable.”

What can we learn from the Indiana contretemps?

(1) Neighbors from Hell can be found anywhere, and it's damned hard to avoid them -- no matter how hard you might try. If you are wealthy enough to afford an estate-sized lot, with serious fencing, that probably helps.

(2) There probably is not a jurisdiction in the country that does not have criminal-trespass laws, but cops tend to be useless in dealing with such matters;

(3) An Indiana neighbor said New's actions made living in the neighborhood "unbearable." Based on experience, I can vouch for that assessment.

(4) Our neighbor issues started in December 1998, and we still are dealing with the legal fallout. Fortunately, advances in technology can provide a major weapon to fight back against neighborhood bullies. I'm pleased to see that Roman and Rios are making video and social media their friends. And I believe that's what caused police to finally take the matter seriously.



Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Kavanaugh hearings get off to raucous start, but Alabama judges Lynwood Smith and Karon Bowdre show U.S. courts are dysfunctional from the top down


Brett Kavanaugh, on the first day of his confirmation hearings,
as aide Zina Bash appears to make a white-power symbol,
near her left elbow, behind him.

The Senate Judiciary Committee began the Brett Kavanaugh hearings yesterday amid shouts from angry protesters and heated debate among committee members over the failure to receive more than 100,000 documents from the nominee's professional history. One member called the hearings a "charade," while another heavyweight politico said the process had "all the makings of a cover up."

It was hard to dispute that characterization. Heck, the festivities even included Web-fueled speculation that Kavanaugh aide Zina Bash made a white-power symbol in full view of a national-television audience. You might call all of this judiciary-related corruption at the "corporate office" level. Meanwhile, "retail level" corruption continues unabated in federal courts across the country -- and far greater legal minds than mine have spoken about it. Meanwhile, my wife, Carol, and I have witnessed it -- in up close and personal ways -- over and over again.

One of the most recent examples came from our efforts to have U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins disqualified from our pending "Jail Case" due to bias or prejudice. Presiding Judge Karon Bowdre referred the matter to Senior Judge Lynwood Smith, which caused me to do a face palm.

Why? Several news outlets have reported that Smith and former Gov. Bob Riley are cousins. It's hardly a secret. One of the defendants in our case is Rob Riley, the former governor's son. That means Smith was set to rule on an issue to which a family member was a party. The judges involved apparently thought we were too stupid to realize what was going on. But when we filed a motion pointing out Smith's conflict and seeking his recusal, Bowdre ruled the whole thing was perfectly fine. (Our motion and Bowdre's ruling are embedded at the end of this post.)

In the process, Bowdre butchered the relevant law -- proving that you, too, can become a presiding judge if you fulfill the apparent requirement that you be both crooked and incompetent. That's justice in the Northern District of Alabama. Talk about a charade.

To no one's surprise, Lynwood Smith ruled that Hopkins could stay on the case, allowing her to continue making unlawful rulings to benefit Rob Riley, members of his law firm, and his political allies -- including a female lobbyist with whom he has been reported to have a particularly "close relationship." (Smith's ruling is embedded at the end of this post.)

Smith essentially pulled out every excuse possible for Hopkins' actions, while largely ignoring the proper standards by which the motion was to be reviewed. The gist of his finding can be found on page 3 of his opinion:

Plaintiffs' allegations do not rise above the level of mere speculation. There is no indication that plaintiffs' criticism of political figures who have supported Judge Hopkins's political career actually caused her to harbor any bias against plaintiffs that has affected her decision-making in this case.  

Where does Smith go wrong? Here are two key grounds:

* Eleventh Circuit law holds that allegations in an affidavit must “convince a reasonable person that a bias exists.” United States v. Alabama, 828 F.2d 1532, 1540 (11th Cir. 1987). In fact, a law-review article on the subject states: "Indeed, virtually every circuit has adopted some version of the 'convince a reasonable person' test." Further, courts have held that the standard must be that of a reasonable layperson, not a reasonable judge or lawyer. Judge Smith makes no mention of applying such a test.

* The Eleventh Circuit also has held "the benefit of the doubt is now to be resolved in favor of recusal." United States v. Alabama, 828 F.2d 1532, 1540 (11th Cir. 1987). Judge Smith makes no mention of this requirement.

Lynwood Smith
Of course, the biggest problem with Judge Smith is that he has a familial relationship with Rob Riley, a party in the case. Even worse, Smith does not disclose this relationship in his ruling on Hopkins' disqualification. It was left to us to bring it up, which we did -- and it involves Ronnie Gilley, who developed Country Crossing in the Dothan area. From our motion:

One of the primary defendants in this matter is Rob Riley, son of former Gov. Bob Riley. Most of the other defendants are politically or professionally connected to Rob and Bob Riley.

According to published reports, Judge Lynwood Smith and Bob Riley are cousins. That means Judge Smith is related to Defendant Rob Riley.

No wonder Judge Smith denied the Shulers’ motion to disqualify Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins for obvious bias and prejudice. He obviously is biased and prejudiced toward defendants who either are members of his family and connected to members of his family.

A 2009 article from the Enterprise Southeast Sun states: “[Bob]Riley released a statement Monday praising U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith's ruling in favor of a Madison County sheriff who seized 200 machines from a bingo hall in Triana. He called the action a definitive ruling on the illegality of electronic bingo machines as a whole throughout the state. . . . A press release from [Ronnie] Gilley's office countered Riley's assessment of the ruling, stating the ruling "is not representative of the legality of other charitable electronic bingo operations in Alabama." "Gov. Riley's comment calling his cousin's ruling 'definitive' is a misrepresentation of the ruling," the release further states. "Smith's decision in favor of the sheriff's accusations that the bingo operation in question was operating illegally was warranted based on facts surrounding the allocation of revenue received from the bingo operation and failure to comply with Amendment 387. Smith's ruling was not in reference to the legality of the machines, but rather the legality of how the Department of Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars was operating its business." In reference to allegations that Riley and Smith are cousins, Jeff Emmerson with Riley's press office confirmed the men are "distant cousins."

What does this mean for our case? Well, it shows Lynwood Smith has a history of ruling in favor of his family members, the Rileys -- and Ronnie Gilley called him out on it. History repeated itself in our case, with Smith again favoring the Riley family and failing to disclose his conflict of interest. From our Motion to Disqualify Lynwood Smith:

So, it’s undisputed that Lynwood Smith and Bob Riley are cousins, meaning Smith is related to defendant Rob Riley. Smith also has a history of cheating on behalf of the Rileys, taking cases where they are involved and he is disqualified. That Smith ruled on the Shulers’ motion without disclosing this blatant conflict of interest shocks the conscience – assuming any of the judges in the Northern District of Alabama has a conscience. Smith unmasks himself as a glorified con man, which is on par with the bias and prejudice Hopkins has shown from the outset of this case.

Summary: Judge Smith is disqualified, and his judgment is due to be vacated as void, per Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corp, 486 US 847 - Supreme Court 1988. Judge Hopkins remains disqualified, and her judgments are due to be vacated as void, per Liljeberg.

How did Presiding Judge Karon Bowdre handle the matter? She found that it's perfectly fine for Judge Smith to rule on a matter where one of his family members is involved. No kidding. Of course, Bowdre had to butcher the law to get there. From her ruling:

In response to the plaintiffs’ present motion, Judge Smith submitted an affidavit describing his genealogical relationship to Rob Riley, and demonstrating that the degree of their kinship, “calculated according to the civil law system,” is seven degrees — far more than the three degrees of relationship proscribed by 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(5). Accordingly, the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 455 do not support plaintiffs’ motion and Judge Smith was not disqualified from ruling on the motion referred to him.

Notice that Bowdre cites law from 28 U.S.C. 455, which is one of two statutes related to judicial disqualification. But Bowdre acknowledges in the first paragraph of her ruling that we filed our motion under 28 U.S.C. 144, the other federal disqualification statute. In short, Bowdre knew our motion was filed under one statute, but she decided the motion based on another statute.

Even if Sec. 455 applied to our motion, Bowdre still butchered the law. She acknowledges that the overriding standard is as follows:

Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

Lynwood Smith is related to an opposing party in our case -- and that is undisputed. Might his impartiality "reasonably be questioned"? The answer obviously is yes. Only in a federal courthouse might someone come up with a different answer.

Bottom line: Sen. Richard Blumenthal nailed it yesterday when he called the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings a charade. But the dubious nature of our federal courts is not breaking news. They have been a sewer long before Kavanaugh was nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court.