Monday, December 31, 2007

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is . . .

Even when you are used to seeing it on a regular basis, the hypocrisy of The Birmingham News can still be jolting.

Take an editorial from today's paper (please!). The News huffs and puffs about the latest from Alabama's two-year college scandal, a story the paper loves, evidently because the wrongdoing involves mostly Democrats.

Listen to the "tsk, tsk" from the News:

"One of the dangers in reading about so much corruption is that you sometimes get jaded to it, so much that it's hard to be shocked and outraged when the next chapter unfolds on the front page. So excuse us while we pause to remind ourselves it's not business as usual when public servants enrich themselves at our expense."

Oh, really? When Bob Riley, Alabama's Republican governor, appears to be up to his neck in doo-doo, it's evidently business as usual--so much so that the News ignores it.

The story about Riley's possible violations of Alabama campaign-finance laws, both in 2002 and 2006, has been all over the Web now for more than three days. Has the News written the first word about it? Nope.

Let's review a few other stories about Riley's shenanigans that the News either has ignored or given only the most cursory of glances:

* Evidence that vote tabulations in Baldwin County were electronically manipulated, allowing the election to be stolen for Riley over Democrat Don Siegelman.

* Evidence that convicted felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon (a former Riley aide) helped funnel Mississippi Choctaw gambling money into Riley's 2002 campaign.

* Evidence that Riley has displayed blatant cronyism in his awarding of state contracts.

* Evidence that Riley had a quid pro quo arrangement with Huntsville supporters, which resulted in state support for a biotech center in Huntsville while stiffing the biotech infrastructure that already existed at UAB.

* Evidence that Riley's children, Rob and Minda, have improperly benefitted from their father's position as governor.

* Evidence that Riley campaign manager Dax Swatek has ties to Jack Abramoff and comes from a family with an almost 30-year history of ethical violations in the legal profession.

* Evidence that Riley instigated a criminal investigation against Montgomery insurance executive John W. Goff in retaliation for Goff filing a lawsuit against Riley and others who allegedly took improper actions that ruined one of Goff's companies.

The list goes on, but you get the idea. The two-year colleges scandal is an important story, and Democrats involved in wrongdoing should be dealt with under the law. But that standard also should apply to Riley and his cronies.

Here's the bottom line: Compelling evidence suggests that Alabama has been ruled for about five years by a governor who was elected based on fraudulent tampering with the voting process. Evidence is even stronger that we've been ruled for five years by a governor who was elected with the help of unlawful activity.

Does this concern the braintrust at Alabama's largest newspaper? Evidently, not in the least.

A National View of Judicial Corruption

Just how corrupt was U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate in his handling of the Paul Minor trial, which has resulted in three men (an attorney and two former state judges) going to federal prison for crimes they did not commit?

That question, which we have examined in detail here at Legal Schnauzer, received national attention recently with a post from Scott Horton of Harper'

Horton does not use the "C" word in his account. He uses somewhat more charitable language--"irregular," "unsettling," "doesn't look right"--to describe Wingate's shenanigans in the Minor case.

Horton's assessment of Wingate's performance can be summed up in these two statements:

* "Most judges would have shut down this prosecution at the start."

* "Every significant ruling by Judge Wingate in the case broke in favor of the prosecution. Some were truly breathtaking."

That's a kind way of saying Wingate, a Reagan appointee, acted corruptly in his handling of a trial that resulted in unlawful prison terms for three Mississippi Democrats.

We've been showing for some time on this blog that Wingate acted corruptly, and we will continue to show that when we soon begin a summary of our 25-part "Mississippi Churning" series.

What is shocking, or "breathtaking" to use Horton's term, is just how blatant Wingate was about it. He made little, if any, effort to cover up what he was doing.

I suspect that's because he knows that his actions will spark little, if any, outrage in the legal community. Lawyers, even the smartest and most honest among them, have a natural inclination to protect fellow members of the clan, at least a little. When Horton interviewed lawyers in Mississippi about the Minor case, many of them--even those who disagreed vehemently with the judges handling of the case--seemed to pull their punches. They were reluctant to call Wingate what he is: a crook.

Well, I'm not a lawyer, and I have no reason to pull punches. So I will say what lawyers will not: Henry Wingate is a dirtbag, and his actions probably rise to the level of criminal activity. Someone should look into impeachment proceedings against him, and he probably belongs behind bars.

Want to get an idea for just how corrupt Wingate was in his handling of the Minor case? Check out this post. Or here is another one, that shows Wingate actually used Mississippi state bribery law in order to get a conviction in federal court. I'm not making this stuff up, folks.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced the Minor case at the U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing on selective prosecution. Hopefully, he can lead the way on exposing Wingate, who is every bit as corrupt and evil as U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, the man who is largely responsible for unlawfully putting former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman in federal prison.

Horton adds some important information to the Minor saga:

* He points out that federal prosecutors easily can time the return of an indictment to coincide with the availability of a certain, desired judge. This is a quaint form of judge shopping, which prosecutors almost certainly practiced to ensure that Wingate would handle the Minor case.

* He points out a key fact that we have addressed here at Legal Schnauzer: Wingate's jury instrution on bribery did not require a quid pro quo, even though Fifth Circuit precedent clearly requires such a "something-for-something" arrangement. This jury instruction, Horton says, was "unconscionable." I've got a better word for it: corrupt.

* He points out another key fact that we have noted: Wingate wrongfully did not allow the defense to present expert witnesses, showing that judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield made rulings that were correct under the law at the time. "Wingate was rather dramatically remapping Mississippi law as he went along," Horton writes. Bingo!

* He notes that Wingate allowed the jury to keep copies of the government indictment from day one, with no corresponding documents from the defense. And yet when it came to the complex jury instructions, Wingate did not allow jurors to have a copy of those. And the judge actually conducted voir dire examination of defense witnesses outside hearing of the jury, reviewing in advance what would be asked and how it would be answered. Wingate took a "blue pencil" to the testimony, "essentially doing the prosecution's work for them," Horton writes.

Henry Wingate's handling of the Minor case is a pox on American justice. Let's hope Rep. Cohen can lead the effort in the new year to expose scoundrels like Wingate, who have taught us the true perverted meaning of "justice" in the Age of Rove.

A couple of points I would add to Horton's account:

* This bears repeating: Not only did Wingate not get the law right in the Minor case, he did not even get the right kind of law right. He unlawfully used Mississippi state bribery law in crafting jury instructions for a federal case. That's a bit like getting convicted in South Dakota based on South Carolina law.

* Horton says he does not like the defendants' chances of winning on appeal in the Minor case, citing the GOP-controlled and notoriously partisan nature of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. If Horton is right about that, we might as well shut down our courts, blow up the law schools, tear up all bar cards, and start over from scratch. (Actually, I think that's a pretty good idea anyway.) This case, by law, has to be overturned on too many grounds to mention here. Democrats and others who are concerned about justice should watch this appeal with the utmost concern. Let me state again: By law, this case must be overturned on multiple grounds. If it is not, I would suggest that Congressional action must be taken.

* Here is an even more important point: Wingate was leading a trial that accused Mississippi state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield of honest-services mail fraud. At the heart of that offense is using the U.S. mails in furtherance of an unlawful and dishonest scheme. We have shown that Teel and Whitfield did not even come close to committing that offense. But guess who almost certainly did? Wingate himself. Many of Wingate's unlawful rulings came in open court, in front of God and everybody. But if the U.S. mails were used at any point in his scheme to rob citizens of their intangible right to honest services--and Wingate had reason to foresee that the mails would be used--Wingate committed a federal crime. And the same would apply to any judges on the Fifth Circuit who vote to uphold the unlawful trial verdict in the Minor case. The mails certainly will be used in the appeals process.

* What about impeachment of a federal judge? That is a rarity in our country, and my research indicates it would be unlikely in Wingate's case. But the issue already is on the table in Wingate's neck of the woods. And naturally, the judge in the cross hairs is a Democratic appointee, by Bill Clinton. But compare the alleged wrongdoing of this federal judge to what we know Wingate has done. Whose behavior was worse. Given that Wingate is responsible for three human beings being wrongfully imprisoned, I don't think it's even a close call.

Could Exxon Ruling be Set Aside?

Alabama blogger Robby Scott Hill is leading an effort to have the Alabama Supreme Court's ExxonMobil ruling set aside.

The ruling, in which the court overturned a $3.6 billion jury verdict for the state, could be set aside because an aide to Justice Tom Parker is not licensed to practice law in Alabama.

Parker wrote the Exxon ruling. But John Eidsmoe, one of Parker's senior staff attorneys, is not licensed to practice law in Alabama, Hill reports. If Eidsmoe prepared a significant portion of the opinion for Parker, the ruling could be void.

Here's a question: If Eidsmoe's participation could void the ExxonMobil ruling, would that apply to all rulings that involved a Parker/Eidsmoe collaboration? Wouldn't that be lovely to see hundreds, maybe thousands, of cases overturned because of a nutcase GOPer on our high court?
Come to think of it, I'm guessing Parker voted not to grant certiorari in my Legal Schnauzer case, violating his oath to uphold the law in the process. Hmmm.

Former employees of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, led by Hill, are seeking to have the ruling set aside.

Hill also provides this insight into Parker and the Exxon ruling.

For good measure, Hill adds this entertaining account of how things really get done in Montgomery, Alabama's seat of power.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Will Real Campaign Manager Please Stand Up?

One of many interesting questions raised by the Montgomery Independent's stories on Bob Riley's flirtations with Alabama's campaign-finance laws is this: Who in the heck was Riley's campaign manager in 2006?

One of the Independent's stories says Riley's son, Rob Riley, managed both his 2002 and 2006 campaigns.

But it has been widely reported on the Web that Montgomery-based GOP "consultant" Dax Swatek was campaign manager for Riley's re-election bid in '06.

So which is it? Is Rob Riley trying to deflect attention away from Swatek for some reason? Did Swatek puff up his resume in order to get a short-lived position with the John McCain campaign? Did Bob Riley have more than one campaign manager in '06?

Dax Swatek, of course, is the son of Pelham, Alabama, attorney William E. Swatek, who filed the fraudulent lawsuit against me that led to numerous unlawful rulings by Republican state judges in Alabama--and to the blog you are now reading.

If Dax Swatek did not fall far from the tree, one has to wonder about his ethics. William E. Swatek has a 30-year record of unethical behavior in his law career. He has been disciplined three times by the Alabama State Bar, including a suspension of his license for acts of fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, etc. He also has been tried for perjury in criminal court.

We will be going into Bill Swatek's sleazy history in painstaking detail here at Legal Schnauzer. And keep this point in mind: This dirtbag attorney has been repeatedly protected by GOP judges in Alabama, both at the trial-court level in Shelby County and at the appellate level.

Even the Alabama Supreme Court, the same Republican-packed body that screwed the state out of a $3.6 billion ruling against oil giant ExxonMobil, has made unlawful rulings in order to protect Bill Swatek from being held accountable for filing a lawsuit that had no basis in fact or law.

Is that because Bill Swatek is Dax Swatek's daddy, and the Daxter has close ties to the Bob Riley camp? We'll lay out the story, and you be the judge.

After all, it will be interesting to see if Dax Swatek winds up in the middle of Riley's campaign-finance mess. Given his father's history, it shouldn't be surprising if Dax Swatek winds up connected to something sleazy.

In fact, the Daxter's fingerprints already have been found in some interesting places. Scott Horton, of Harper', has noted the Daxter's connections to Jack Abramoff. And it was the flow of Abramoff money to the Riley campaign that might have led to the latest allegations involving use of planes and improper reporting of campaign finances.

Will Dax Swatek wind up adding mud to his family's already less-than-stellar reputation? Stay tuned.

Will Riley Story Have Legs?

A gritty small Alabama newspaper breaks a major story two days ago about the state's Republican governor possibly violating campaign-finance laws in 2002 and 2006.

A major Web news site, Raw Story, quickly picks up on the news broken by the Montgomery Independent and reporter Bob Gambacurta. A number of Alabama bloggers--Highway 431, Left in Alabama, Locust Fork News, Legal Schnauzer--soon follow suit. A nationally prominent blogger, Scott Horton of Harper', picks up on the story and provides important analysis and context. So does another key national blogger, Larisa Alexandrovna, of at-Largely.

So where are Alabama's major daily newspapers in all of this? Missing in action, apparently. And that should be no surprise to those of us who have seen the concerted effort by The Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register, Huntsville Times, and Montgomery Advertiser to ignore the Bush Department of Justice (DOJ) scandal.

But why would these paragons of Alabama journalism be interested? After all, the nationwide DOJ scandal only has its roots in Alabama, courtesy of the partisan prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman, a Democrat.

And the latest story about current Governor Bob Riley (a Republican) and his apparent efforts to skirt campaign-finance laws? The Birmingham News hasn't touched it. If the other three papers have done anything, it isn't readily apparent from checking their Web sites.

How long will the state's major papers ignore the story? And if they do decide to tackle it, what approaches will they take to cover up any possible wrongdoing by the Riley crowd? Can't wait to see if ace "attack chihuahua" Brett Blackledge will jump on this for the News.

What does the Montgomery Independent's scoop mean? For one, it seems to grow from the dispute between Riley and Montgomery insurance executive John W. Goff. A former Riley supporter, Goff has sued Riley and others for allegedly conspiring to ruin one of his companies. Riley appears to have retaliated by encouraging a criminal investigation of Goff.

Horton notes the close connections between Goff's account of his dealings with the Riley bunch and the account of Tuscaloosa businessman Stan Pate, another former Riley backer.

And Horton notes the connections between this story and GOP efforts to remove Siegelman from office. But Horton goes even further:

"They were an effort to obliterate the state's democratic process. And they were pulled off with remarkable aplomb and considerable cover, courtesy of a mass market print media which failed miserably in its duty of critical inquiry."

Alexandrovna's account raises a number of interesting questions. She asks if other former Riley associates--John Giles, once head of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, and attorney Hoyt Baugh--might decide to start singing some interesting songs. She also wonders if Riley's children--Rob and Minda--might also wind up being heavily involved in Plane-Gate.

Here is an excellent wrapup at Left in Alabama, with links to work by a number of bloggers.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Did Riley Violate Campaign Finance Laws?

Alabama Governor Bob Riley might have attempted to conceal illegal corporate donations to his 2002 and 2006 campaigns by representing them in campaign-finance reports as having come from individuals, according to reports by the Montgomery Independent and Raw Story.

This story could have important connections to the unlawful actions by Republican Alabama state judges, which are at the heart of our Legal Schnauzer blog. The campaign manager for Riley's 2006 re-election campaign was Montgomery-based consultant Dax Swatek.

Swatek's father, William E. Swatek, filed a fraudulent lawsuit against me that touched off what we have come to call the Legal Schnauzer case. That case has involved multiple unlawful rulings by Republican judges in Shelby County, Alabama, plus unlawful affirmances by the state's Republican-packed appellate courts.

Dax Swatek has raised funds for at least one Alabama appellate judge, Glenn Murdock, who refused to recuse himself from my case and then voted unlawfully to uphold a lower-court ruling favoring Dax Swatek's father.

Bob Riley went on national television following the disappearance in Aruba of Alabama resident Natalee Holloway, calling for a travel boycott of Aruba and stating that he wanted to know about any irregularities citizens have experienced in Alabama's justice system. The Riley administration has taken no action on multiple e-mails I have sent regarding unlawful actions by Alabama judges that favored William E. Swatek, the father of Riley's campaign manager.

Dax Swatek also served as campaign manager for Alice Martin's failed 2000 run for a seat on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Martin now is U.S. attorney in Birmingham, and she has taken affirmative steps to ensure that federal crimes committed in my case have been covered up. You will recall that Martin brought the first case against former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, which was thrown out by a federal judge. Siegelman later was convicted in a second case, tried in Montgomery.

As campaign manager for Riley's 2006 campaign, Dax Swatek could be responsible for any violations of campaign-finance laws.

Raw Story's Muriel Kane reports that the Montgomery Independent found that the Riley campaign in 2006 reported the use of airplanes owned by two corporations as if they were personal "in-kind" donations from the presidents of these corporations. The campaign also listed
the provision of an advertising billboard as a personal donation from the president of the ad agency. Together, these in-kind donations had a value of more than $25,000, far beyond the $500 limit allowed for any one corporation in a single election cycle.

Bob Martin, publisher of the Independent, has called for further investigation of the matter, stating in an editorial, "The question which stands out front-and-center is whether or not the listing of individuals instead of the true corporate donors was intentional, as in to bypass the legal limits on corporate donations, or was just a mistake in reporting."

If Riley is not able to clear himself in the matter, Martin says he is prepared to call for legal action, noting the violation of the law, if not refuted, is "just as serious as the matters for which former Gov. Don Siegelman was convicted."

Kane notes that Raw Story is conducting an ongoing investigation into the 2002 Alabama governor's election, in which Riley pulled ahead of Siegelman based on mysterious changing vote totals in Republican stronghold Baldwin County.

Links to the original Independent story and editorial can be accessed through the Raw Story link above.

The Independent story is written by reporter Bob Gambacurta, who we recently praised here at Legal Schnauzer for his work on the case involving Riley and insurance executive John W. Goff.

Bits and Pieces for $50, Alex

Justice and the Presidential Campaign
Have I missed something or have the presidential candidates been awfully quiet about the Bush Justice Department scandal?

You can understand why Rudy, Romney, Huckabee & Co. would be quiet about it? But why haven't Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards made more of an issue of it? Heck, there is strong evidence to suggest that Edwards and Clinton donors were specifically targeted by the Bush DOJ. Shouldn't that irk the candidates just a bit?

A strong argument could be made that this is the single most important domestic issue out there. We have at least four Democrats--Don Siegelman, Paul Minor, Wes Teel, and John Whitfield--being held political prisoner. This is in the US of A folks, and Democratic candidates do not see this as worthy of discussion?

Perhaps the most important decision a Democratic president could make in 2009 would be the appointment of an attorney general. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear who the candidates might nominate? What do they think should be done about the trashing of one of our most treasured institutions--the justice department?

And by the way, who would be good AG candidates in a Democratic administration? Eliot Spitzer? Patrick Fitzgerald?

By God, if Ellen Brooks would get off her duff and get moving down in Montgomery County, Alabama, I would support her for AG. Ms. Brooks, our friend Robby Scott Hill says you have the authority to go after some of the Republican sleazebags who have turned Alabama into a justice cesspool. Are you ready to go, girl?

Putin? Person of the Year?
What on earth was Time magazine thinking when it named Russian president Vladimir Putin as its Person of the Year?

If there ever was an open-and-shut candidate for Person of the Year, it came in 2007--and his name is Al Gore. He's won a Nobel prize, an Emmy, and an Oscar. He has led the effort to build public awareness on global warming--the single most important issue of this, or any other, age. And perhaps his greatest achievement is the utter dignity and class with which he has handled being the victim of perhaps the biggest screw job in modern times--the U.S. Supreme Court's gift wrapping of the presidency for George W. Bush in 2000.

And Time picks Vladimir Putin? Something tells me the Time folks did not want to put up with the grief they would have taken from right wingers for making the obvious choice of Gore.

Fred Hiatt, of the Washington Post, has an interesting take on the pick of Putin.

Citizen Stands Up to Riley
Let's hear it for Fred Plump, of Fairfield, Alabama, who has the spine to stand up to Alabama Governor Bob Riley.

Plump filed a lawsuit against Riley, claiming the governor lacked jurisdiction to name a replacement to the Jefferson County Commission seat left vacant when Larry Langford became Birmingham mayor.

The case is set for hearing Jan. 15 before a three-judge panel in Montgomery. If legal precedent counts, this should be a no-brainer. As we noted in an earlier post, Riley tried to pull a similar stunt in Mobile, and a federal court overruled him. Evidently the governor is hard-headed, just like a certain resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, who oversaw the Don Siegelman prosecution, is on the three-judge panel, so I would say Riley has one vote in the bag.

"Somebody had to step out," Plump said. "I had no problem doing that." Good for him.

But with Fuller in the game, Plump is going to need help. I hope Democrats and activists who care about justice will watch this case closely. There doesn't appear to be much doubt that Riley is in the wrong. But don't be surprised if he comes out on top in this case.

Here's a pet theory of mine: I think Fuller, Riley and other GOP wackos, deep down, believe they are anointed by God to rule our country and protect us from people with dark skin. Without Fuller, Riley & Co., America (in their minds) would be overrun by people with dark skin--and that must not be allowed to happen. That, I propose, is why they are so threatened by white, male, Southern progressives like Don Siegelman, Paul Minor, Bill Clinton, and so on.

Now normal people, with Congress investigating the Bush Justice Department, would straighten up and fly right. But Fuller, Riley & Co. are not normal people. They are on a mission from God. And they will never change unless Democrats in Congress gird their loins and fight to take back our country's justice system.

Republican sleazebags have a deep sense of entitlement--that they deserve to run things, especially in the South. And they will not give that up lightly. If Congressional Democrats are not prepared for the fight of their lives, Republicans will go on running roughshod over the Constitution.

If I've learned one thing from my almost 30 years of living in the South, it is this: Southerners flat out know how to fight. The Civil War should have been the biggest mismatch in the history of man. But the Rebs were mean as rattlesnakes, and they were tougher fighters than the Yanks. If the resources on the two sides had been remotely equal, we would all be whistling Dixie right now. And why do you think Southerners are so good at all the sports that involve violence--football, stock-car racing (OK, hockey's an exception)?

And Southerners love a winner who doesn't mind breaking a few rules to get his way. Heck, it's no accident that the two cheatingest conferences in the history of college football are the old Southwest Conference (based mostly in Texas) and the Southeastern Conference, with headquarters in Birmingham.

Guys like Fuller and Riley--and George W. Bush, for that matter--know this. That's why they cloak themselves in religion and righteousness and feel perfectly fine about treating the law as their personal plaything.

Here's a thought: On Christmas Eve, I would bet my mortgage that Fuller and Riley and their kindred souls were at various church services, drinking in the Holy Spirit. Did it ever occur to them that they were responsible for imprisoning innocent people? Did they feel the slightest bit of guilt about that?

I doubt it.

Hey, Why No Legal Schnauzer?
I was bitterly disappointed the other day when The Birmingham News did not include Legal Schnauzer in its story celebrating local bloggers.

After all the nice things I've had to say about the paper, you would think they could give me a little plug. Think I'll call Brett Blackledge and Tom Scarritt, two of my favorites, to ask about this oversight.

On a serious note, I was pleased to see that, by my friend Stanley Holditch, was mentioned in the article. In fact, Stanley was so shocked at the coverage, that he had to write about it.

Aren't We Really Talking About "Jury Hellholes?"
A thought occurred to me after posting the other day about the news that Alabama had been removed from some list of "judicial hellholes."

A tort-reform group came up with the list, and Alabama Governor Bob Riley saw it as a good thing that Alabama no longer is a place where corporate giants like ExxonMobil can be held accountable for their wrongdoing.

But isn't this another clever use of the language by right wingers? What the righties don't like is large jury verdicts. After all, it was a jury that awarded Alabama $3.6 billion in damages in a case against ExxonMobil.

But the GOPers don't want to use the term "jury hellholes." After all, juries are made up of regular people, ones who vote (sometimes).

So the GOPers come up with the term "judicial hellhole." Very clever. And amazingly enough, they get away with it.

We're Surrounded by Nutjobs!
Ever feel like you are surrounded by rude, thoughtless, witless jerk-offs? Ever think we've seen the last of decency and common courtesy? Ever drive down the road and wonder: "Who are these nutjobs weaving in and out of traffic, honking horns, flipping birds, riding bumpers, ignoring speed limits, and running red lights?"

Well, you're not alone. Check out this column by Dick Meyer, of the Washington Post, about his experience at a recent professional football game. If you really want to experience boorishness, sounds like the NFL is the place to be.

Another Case of Animal Cruelty
Speaking of lowlifes and cretins, we have another case of animal cruelty in the Birmingham area. This time a female Siamese cat was tied up in a kitchen garbage bag, stuffed in a gym bag and left dangling from a tree in a Mountain Brook office park.

An architect who worked in the area noticed the gym bag in the tree, and an attorney made the rescue call. The attorney and another employee dried off the cat, who had clawed its way out of the plastic bag. "I thought it was absolutely disgusting," said Keri Kelly, the attorney. "It makes you wonder what is up with the world today."

The cat now is in good condition and with the Birmingham animal rescue group TEARS. A TEARS representative said the cat was well cared for, indicating it probably was someone's pet. They hope to reunite the cat with her owner.

As the proud parents of two Siamese cats, brother and sister Baxter and Chloe, my wife and I were disgusted to read this story. Let's hope authorities can nail the sicko responsible for this.

And by the way, animal lovers are not giving up in their hopes of finding out what happened to Anne, the Cullman County beagle who had to be euthanized after being skinned over most of her body. A forensics report by an Auburn University veterinarian indicated the dog probably was skinned by machinery and not by human hands. But a reward fund has grown to $35,000, and a Cullman County animal-protection official says many residents do not believe the forensics report. The Justice for Anne fund remains in place.

A Red-Faced Schnauzer
Your humble blogger is even more humble than usual today, and a bit red-faced, after a weak attempt at humor didn't go quite as planned.

I recently referred to the blog Buck Naked Politics and an item written by "D Cupples." Being a typical red-blooded, hetero American guy, I can take any phrase that even remotely could refer to breasts and run with it. So after noting the writer's name, D Cupples, I cleverly wrote in parentheses, "How's that for a descriptive nickname."

Now in my defense, my mind might not have so quickly gone in a certain direction had the writer's first initial been, say, "S" or "Q." And I've seen that last name before, but it's always been spelled "Couples," as in the golfer Fred Couples. Somehow, seeing the initial "D" with the spelling "Cup," my mind went to . . . well, you know where.

My wife properly chastised me upon reading the post. "God, you sound like Bevis and Butthead," she said. "I do not," I replied, "huh-huh, huh-huh."

Anyway, turns out D. Cupples is not a nickname. It's the real name of Buck Naked Politics writer Deb Cupples. And I received an e-mail the next day from Ms. Cupples, who, Thank God, has a wonderful sense of humor.

She wrote:

"Hi there,

"Thanks for giving us a nod at your blog. I wanted to let you know that "D. Cupples" is my first initial and last name (not a nickname). A few others have thought that it was a nickname, too.

I'm NOT offended. In fact, I'm laughing.

Happy holidays!


Now, how's that for class? And Deb, I'm laughing with you. Whew!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Beacon for Justice in Alabama?

Could there be a beacon for justice in Alabama--for Don Siegelman and others who have suffered under corrupt state and federal officials? Could that beacon come in the person of Ellen Brooks, district attorney for Montgomery County, Alabama?

Blogger Robby Scott Hill raises this intriguing question in a post today at Novationeering.

Hill's voice is one deserving of attention on legal issues. While yours truly is a pseudo lawyer at best--"Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer" my wife likes to call me--Hill is pretty much the real deal. He has a law degree and has worked in state government.

And here is what he says: As district attorney for Montgomery County, Ellen Brooks has statewide jurisdiction over state government, which resides in her county. She has, Hill says, criminal jurisdiction over any federal law-enforcement officer who committed perjury or false arrest upon a state officer.

Hill goes on to note that, as a licensed attorney at the time of his conviction, Don Siegelman was an officer of the Alabama Supreme Court and therefore an officer of the state.

Hill worked as an intern for Ms. Brooks in 1997 and says she was not afraid to prosecute government corruption at that time. "Let's see if that is still a true statement," he writes.

You can read about Ms. Brooks here. She is a Democrat. Let me repeat: She is a Democrat.

You can contact her office here.

While we are pondering the issue that Robby Scott Hill has raised, let's allow our imagination to run wild for a moment. Could Ms. Brooks help answer the following questions:

* Did Bob Riley win the governor's office as a result of election fraud in 2002? Riley serves in Montgomery County, so would this question come under Ms. Brooks' purview?

* Did Leura Canary, Louis Franklin, Steve Feaga and other luminaries in the Montgomery U.S. Attorneys Office commit crimes that would come under Ms. Brooks' purview?

* Did Bob Riley, Leura Canary, Steve Windom and others commit crimes in causing a criminal investigation to be launched against Montgomery insurance executive John W. Goff, apparently in retaliation for a lawsuit Goff filed? Would this come under Ms. Brooks purview?

* If Republican officials at the national level--Noel Hillman, Karl Rove--caused Don Siegelman to be wrongfully prosecuted, could Ms. Brooks seek to prosecute them?

* If the eight Republican judges on the Alabama Supreme Court committed a crime against the state by fraudulently overturning a $3.6 billion verdict against ExxonMobil, could Ms. Brooks seek to prosecute them?

And let's ponder a few questions regarding our own Legal Schnauzer case:

* If the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court committed a crime against the state by fraudulently upholding unlawful trial-court rulings, could Ms. Brooks seek to prosecute them?

* If Shelby County judges J. Michael Joiner and G. Dan Reeves were involved in a conspiracy to get the appellate courts to uphold their own bogus rulings, could Ms. Brooks seek to prosecute them?

* If this conspiracy involved Shelby County attorney William E. Swatek, and if his son Dax Swatek played a role in furthering the conspiracy, could Ms. Brooks seek to prosecute both of them?

Perhaps your humble blogger is going a bit overboard here. But I haven't been able to wipe the smile off my face since these thoughts came to mind.

I'm not naive enough to think all, or any, of this going to happen. But it sure is fun to think about. Praise God for Robby Scott Hill and Novationeering!

Our Political-Prisoner Population Grows

Today should be a sobering day for all Americans, as our population of known political prisoners doubles in size.

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and Mississippi attorney Paul Minor have been in federal prison for months now. They are joined today by former Mississippi state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield, both convicted with Minor on corruption-related charges.

The real crimes of all four men? Being active and successful Democrats in Deep South states, where Republicans in the Age of Rove will brook no competition.

Let me repeat that to ensure that it sinks in: At least four Americans, all Democrats, are being held political prisoner, right now. Most Americans have not realized the enormity of this story. When is the last (or the first) time that you have heard a presidential candidate from either party mention it?

A strong argument could be made that it is the most important domestic issue in our country at the moment. Few Americans can grasp the concept that our Department of Justice (DOJ) is knowingly imprisoning people who have committed no crimes. But that is exactly what has taken place with Siegelman, Minor, Teel, and Whitfield.

Scott Horton, of Harper', has written with stark clarity about the Siegelman case, and we here at Legal Schnauzer are among a number of bloggers who have followed the story closely. As for the Minor case, we have written 30-plus posts about the case, showing that the three defendants did not even come close to committing federal crimes.

Horton also has written a number of major posts about the Minor case, the most recent coming yesterday and focusing on Wes Teel. The headline: Collateral Damage: Is Mississippi Judge Wes Teel the Victim of a Political Prosecution?

The answer to that question is a resounding yes. And Horton goes on to outline the absurdity of the government's "case" against Teel. Horton earlier had reported that Paul Minor, a successful Gulf Coast attorney, was a generous donor to Democratic campaigns, including those of Teel and Whitfield. Minor also supported Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, and Horton has reported on an apparent campaign by the Bush DOJ to target Edwards' trial-lawyer supporters.

"Of course, they were out after Paul Minor," Teel tells Horton, days before reporting to federal prison in Atlanta. "I was just collateral damage."

Indeed, evidence strongly suggests that both Teel and Whitfield got caught in the ugly crossfire aimed at a successful Democratic attorney who had successfully sued the asbestos and tobacco industries, not to mention oil interests. Those are traits Minor shares with another political prisoner--Don Siegelman.

Horton provides valuable insight on the underlying lawsuit that wound up putting Wes Teel in prison. The lawsuit involved The Peoples Bank, represented by Paul Minor, against the insurer USF&G. The bank contended that it was owed coverage on a policy designed to address liability arising from automobiles that the bank financed. When the insurance company failed to provide coverage under the policy, the bank sued.

The case was straightforward, Horton reports. The issue was the interpretation of specific insurance contract language. Then he makes a critical point:

"Of course the insurance company had written the contract language, which is why, as a general premise, ambiguities would not be settled in its favor."

It should not have been a surprise to the insurance company then that Teel ruled in the bank's favor on liability. Teel also had ruled in the bank's favor on a discovery matter.

But did any of Teel's actions indicate he was corrupt, ruling contrary to the facts and law in the case? Evidently even the insurance company did not think so. As Horton notes, the insurance company did not take a number of steps it could have taken if it thought Teel was clearly wrong and/or corrupt in his rulings. Instead, it chose to settle the case.

So Wes Teel did not even make a final ruling in the lawsuit, and there is no evidence that he ruled contrary to law. And yet, because of this case, Wes Teel is reporting to federal prison today.

How could that be? After the insurance company chose to settle, the Mississippi Supreme Court handed down a split decision in a similar case, siding with the insurance company and against the bank. As tends to happen in our modern courts, the ruling had politics written all over it: Republican justices sided with the insurance company, Democrats supported the bank.

But get this: The government used this ruling, which came well after the lawsuit that had settled before Teel, as proof that Teel had acted corruptly. Never mind that Teel's decisions did not run counter to any law that was settled at the time of his rulings.

"It looks to me like the prosecution of Judge Teel was motivated by a very emotional case of buyer's remorse on the part of the insurance company and its lawyers," Horton writes. "As it turned out, they didn't call things correctly. The Supreme Court went their way. The criminal prosecution offered a way to get restitution and overturn the settlement.

"This is, to put it mildly, not an appropriate use of the criminal justice system. But it's just the sort of use to which the Bush Justice Department is itching to put it."

I've had the pleasure of getting to know Wes Teel via e-mail over the past several months. He is a good-natured fellow, with a keen sense of humor. So it is appropriate that Horton managed to find some humor in the Teel saga, by noting the strange premise upon which the government built its case.

"The Justice Department's contention is that the insurance company wouldn't have entered into the settlement but for the pressure of Judge Teel," Horton writes. "That means the Justice Department has decided to treat the insurance companies and their high-priced lawyers with the sort of special paternalistic deference reserved in the nineteenth century for widows, imbeciles, and orphans. . . . Now the insurance company and its fancy lawyers were definitely not widows or orphans, and whether they were imbeciles would be a judgment call I am not prepared to make. But for the Bush Justice Department they are, apparently, to be viewed as persons who cannot fend for themselves in the rough wilderness of Mississippi's judiciary . . . "

Were the insurance-company lawyers truly helpless? Hardly. Just consider the weapons at their disposal. One was to accept Teel's rulings and move forward to trial, confident in the strength of their case. If the trial didn't go well, they could appeal to a higher court, confident in the strength of their case. And if they truly thought Teel was wrong, they had two weapons they could have used right then and there.

You can read about these weapons here, provided by the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure, which appear to be pretty much identical to the Alabama rules. Under Rule 5, the insurance company could have sought an interlocutory appeal by permission. If Teel failed to grant permission--and the evidence suggests he would have been perfectly fine with the insurance company taking the question to a higher court--the company could have sought a writ of mandamus. This is an extraordinary writ, asking a higher court to direct a lower-court judge to take a certain action that is in line with its interpretation of the law.

The insurance company had all kinds of weapons at its disposal--if it had been confident in its case. But that's the problem. Evidence suggests that the insurance company knew it was on shaky legal footing. Based on my reading of the criminal-trial transcript, I understand that the contentious discovery issue involved a document in which insurance-company officials acknowledged that they were on shaky legal footing under the law at the time.

As I recall, the insurance company contended that the document was privileged, but Teel ruled that it was discoverable. My guess is this: The real reason the insurance company settled is that one of their own documents had come to light showing they didn't have a very good case--and they knew it.

And irony of irony, a very similar document came to light in the ExxonMobil case, where the Alabama Supreme Court overturned a $3.6 billion verdict in favor of the state against the oil giant.

What does this tell us about Republican justice in the Age of Rove: When you uncover one of their dirty little corporate secrets, watch out. They will do their darnedest to make somebody pay.

Scott Horton has more posts coming about the people who have wrongfully been forced to pay in the Paul Minor case. Horton evidently will focus like a laser on U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate, who presided over the Minor trial.

We here at Legal Schnauzer will do the same. We have shown conclusively, through our "Mississippi Churning" series, that Wingate made numerous unlawful rulings that all but ensured the defendants would be convicted. Wingate's key errors, which almost certainly were not accidental, involved the following:

* Expert witnesses for the defense, who would have shown that Teel and Whitfield ruled correctly based on the facts and law before them.

* Jury instructions on bribery, which were not at all in line with actual federal bribery law.

* Jury instructions on honest-services mail fraud, which were not at all in line with actual federal bribery law.

We soon will be presenting a summary of our "Mississippi Churning" series. Three innocent Americans currently are in federal prison because of the Paul Minor case. It is critical that Americans understand the corrupt actions of the federal judge who put them there.

Siegelman and Such

Outrageous GOP "Justice"
The Alabama Democratic Party today presents an important post on its official blog.

The post notes that, as of today, it has been 50 days since the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' second order directing U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller to show cause for denying Don Siegelman appeal bond.

"Don Siegelman has now been imprisoned for 5 months and 29 days with no explanation as to why he was denied an appeal bond," the post states.

The post's opening paragraph gets to the heart of the matter:

"The 11th Circuit should release Don Siegelman because he has been denied his right to an appeal bond based on a technicality, and Judge Fuller is refusing to come clean about why he refused bond for the former governor. Alabama, where is the outrage? Republicans talk about activist judges being bad for our society. I can't think of anything more activist than partisan justice from the DOJ and the federal bench."

This is an excellent post, but I would urge the Alabama Democratic Party to also look at our state bench. Partisan justice also is prevalent there--and not only in the ExxonMobil case. I am just one Alabamian who has been the victim of clear partisan justice at the hands of Republican trial and appellate judges in Alabama. But my conversations with people who are knowledgeable about the workings of our corporate-controlled courts tell me I am far from alone. I suspect many Alabamians get cheated by Republican judges without even knowing it. As happened with me, corrupt judges like to use a citizen's own attorneys against them. That keeps the scales firmly planted over the eyes of many citizens.

But this is one citizen who spent hours at a local law library before the scales fell from my eyes. And now I am doing my darnedest to help educate other Alabamians about what can happen to them in our corrupt courthouses.

I urge the Alabama Democratic Party to join me in that effort. The corrupt judges in my case have been overwhelmingly Republican. But I have little doubt that corrupt Democrat judges also exist in our state, and the party should do everything in its power to give those judges the boot.

It's not enough for Democrats to merely point fingers at corrupt Republicans. Democrats should make an honest justice system a top priority, at both the state and national level. And if that means exposing a few corrupt Democrats, I say good. Only strengthens the party's credibility on the issue.

An Unusual Christmas Message
When we remember those in need during the holiday season, we usually think of the poor, the hungry, perhaps those unfortunate enough to live in oppressive societies.

But this year, those in need include Americans who once enjoyed considerable power and means. And what caused their misfortune? Being active and successful Democrats in the Deep South during the Republican Age of Rove.

Scott Horton of Harper' brings this home brilliantly in a Christmas-Day post. His thoughts, Horton writes, are with the families of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former Mississippi judge Wes Teel.

"They stand as a symbol of a new phenomenon: political prisoners on American soil," Horton writes. "My hope is that in the coming year, Americans will wake up to the injustices practiced in their name. Maybe we will again have a Department of Justice that places value on justice ahead of doing the political dirty work of its partisan masters. Maybe we will again have judges who place their duty to the Constitution and law ahead of their support of a political party. Christmas is a day for peace and contemplation. But the New Year will be a time for accountability for those who betray the public trust--the message promised by the trumpet is simple: The truth shall be known, and justice shall be done."

A Call for Action
The New York Times, like Scott Horton, is calling for action and accountability in the investigation of apparent wrongdoing by the Bush Justice Department. The Times notes that it has been almost a year since the U.S. attorneys scandal broke, and no full investigation has even come close to being done.

The Times notes that a number of key figures in the scandal have left Washington and a few key reforms have been instituted. But much more needs to be done, and leadership must come from Attorney General Michael Mukasey, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"The integrity of the Justice Department is precious," the Times writes. "The fair application of the law is the cornerstone of American justice and American democracy. A halfway resolution of this scandal is not enough. It needs to be investigated vigorously and completely."

Republicans have left "the cornerstone of American justice" in tatters. And Scott Horton notes that Mukasey, a Bush appointee, has shown almost no sign that he is willing to correct the situation. It will be up to Democrats to put it back together and punish those who caused its destruction in the first place. Do Democrats have the backbone needed for such a task?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

GOP Sleaze Can Hit Close to Home

I suspect many folks read Scott Horton's work at Harper' with great interest but also with a somewhat detached view. Wrongful convictions . . . sleazy prosecutors . . . corrupt judges . . . people being ruined financially . . . people having their freedom taken away for political reasons.

Those are the kinds of things that happen to other people, right?

That would have been my mindset several years ago. But not anymore.

Horton is the nation's primary chronicler of Republican sleaze in the Age of Rove, and he tends to focus on the wrongs that have been committed against prominent political figures--Don Siegelman in Alabama, Paul Minor in Mississippi, Georgia Thompson in Wisconsin, and so on.

Horton's reporting and analysis invariably makes for fascinating reading. And all too often, it hits uncomfortably close to home for your humble blogger. In fact, I'm stunned at the number of times I've been reading a Horton post and said to myself, "My God, this sounds like it's coming right from my own life."

The techniques that Republicans use to cheat and harm innocent people are at the heart of Horton's work. And I've had an up-close-and-personal view of these techniques for going on 10 years now.

Two recent Horton posts provide examples of how his work strikes a chord here at Legal Schnauzer. First there was a post about the release from federal prison of Lanny Young, a chief accuser in the Siegelman case. Horton makes several key points in the post:

* A source told Horton some time ago that Young's two-year prison sentence merely was for show. Young would be released by year's end, the source said. And the source was right on the money.

* The Birmingham News is playing its usual stellar role in selling the Young story to the public. News' reporter Kim Chandler cites two reasons for Young's release: He is being threatened by other prisoners, and he cannot complete a drug-rehab program because of a chicken-pox outbreak in the prison system. Horton makes it clear that he isn't buying either of these explanations.

* The theory behind the prosecution of Siegelman was that he personally benefitted from Richard Scrushy's donation to a campaign. According to that theory, there currently should be 146 criminal investigations of George W. Bush and Karl Rove and people connected to them. Horton notes that 146 individuals made or procured donations of $100,000 or more for the Bush-Cheney campaign and then received appointments in the administration. Some cabinet members are included in this crowd. But where are those prosecutions for bribery and honest-services mail fraud and conspiracy?

Horton hits really close to home with his final paragraph, which refers to the shenanigans of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, who clearly was biased in the Siegelman case and created an uneven playing field. Horton notes that the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens the right to an impartial judge.

Horton is referring to the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment. That is what "guarantees" all citizens--me, you, Don Siegelman--the right to an impartial judge. The 14th Amendment also "guarantees" equal protection of the law.

Siegelman clearly did not get an impartial judge or equal protection, and I know what that feels like. I went before Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner, who repeatedly ruled contrary to clear law in favor of the opposing party. And this benefitted the opposing party's attorney, William E. Swatek, who has direct ties to the Alabama and national GOP hierarchy--Bill Canary, Bob Riley, Karl Rove, Alice Martin--through his son, GOP "consultant" and campaign manager Dax Swatek.

Did I get an impartial judge? Not even close. I would have come closer to getting justice in Afghanistan.

And then there is Horton's post about the GOP phone-jamming caper in New Hampshire in 2002. A new book is coming out that will provide details about the scheme, and Think Progress has produced an article showing that the Bush White House was involved.

Three GOP operatives ended up in prison for their involvement in the case. But Horton notes that the prosecution did not come until after the 2004 election.

This kind of politicization of the U.S. Justice Department hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer. For almost a year and a half, I've provided information to both the FBI and the Birmingham U.S. attorney's office about criminal wrongdoing by Republican judges and at least one lawyer in my case.

The FBI has simply ignored me, even though it has a special Web site for reporting white-collar crime and public corruption. The Web page appears to be legit. But if your allegations are of wrongdoing by Republicans in Alabama, the page is just for show.

U.S. attorney Alice Martin has tried her best to ignore me. But she finally responded once I had her personal e-mail address. And eventually, she made it clear that she was taking affirmative steps to ensure that my case would not see the light of day. I'm sure she thought I would be too dumb to realize that by sending my complaint to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, she was sending it to the wrong agency--and therefore to oblivion.

But I know exactly what she was pulling, and I will be reporting on the "Malice of Alice" in the near future.

My key point: Don Siegelman, Paul Minor and other powerful folks are not the only targets of GOP dirty tricks. Such tricks also can be used against regular folks like you and me. In fact, just in the past week or so, I've seen signs that dirty tricks are continuing to come my way. Some involve my personal property. And another apparently involves my job. I will be sharing these curious events with readers here at Legal Schnauzer.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Message for the Season

Thank you to Pam Miles for sending this Christmas message from former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. I would like to, in turn, share it with Legal Schnauzer readers. May we all keep these powerful words in our minds, and in our hearts, in the weeks and months ahead.

Merry Christmas to all of you, with heartfelt gratitude for your support.

Please enjoy this meaningful holiday season and appreciate your freedom, your homes, and your loved ones. I look forward to cherishing these precious gifts, more than ever, in the coming year.

With your continued hard work, I believe this Christmas will be my only one within these walls. Despite the grim conditions here, I will celebrate this special day by keeping my faith, and by maintaining the hope that, with your help, we can move Congress to expand their investigation and restore American justice --our once bright beacon in the free world.

I cannot thank you enough, or ask more emphatically that you continue and intensify your extremely important efforts. May the many blessings of this season bring joy to each of you.

Don Siegelman
Oakdale, LA

Don Siegelman # 24775-001
Satellite Prison Camp
Post Office Box 5010
Oakdale, LA 71463-5019

Spreading the Word

The Legal Schnauzer has had the good fortune to draw the attention of several prominent bloggers in recent days. We appreciate the links, and we hope our readers will check out these blogs on a regular basis. All have interesting takes on issues connected to justice.

We live in a time where people actually are being held political prisoners in the United States. At least two Democrats, former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and Mississippi attorney Paul Minor, have been political prisoners for several months now. Two more, former Mississippi judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield, become political prisoners on Thursday (Dec. 27).

If the United States is to return to a system of honorable justice, it will take a team effort. I vote for Scott Horton of Harper's as team captain. But I'm always delighted to discover other key members of the team:

* Larisa Alexandrovna of at-Largely, who has become a major voice on the Don Siegelman case and other justice-related stories, notes the Schnauzer and a number of other sites about citizen journalism.

* The blogger "D Cupples" (now how's that for a descriptive nickname?) at Buck Naked Politics mentions the Schnauzer in a roundup of thoughts from the blogosphere. Buck Naked Politics has been on a our blogroll for a while, and I hope Schnauzer readers will make regular stops there.

* And then there is a fascinating post from a site that is new to me. It's called The Disbrimstone Daily Pitchfork. The site bills itself as "Hell's Leading Daily Newspaper." (I like a dark sense of humor.) The post is titled "The Fourteen Points of Fascism: A Political Prisoner in Alabama is No Mere Commoner." The post, by Sarah Bloch, makes numerous intriguing points and is very well written. The site itself might be a bit racy for some folks' tastes. And I get the feeling the administrators aren't terribly fond of organized religion, which might offend others. But the site is funky, quirky, provocative, and justice-oriented. That's all right in my book, and I plan to make frequent visits in the future. We need some edgy folks on the justice team.

By the way, Bloch's post makes an excellent companion piece to a recent Naomi Wolf essay, which has drawn widespread attention in both the mainstream and alternative press.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Psychological Torture, GOP Style

How wicked are some members of the modern-day Republican Party? Consider the case of former Mississippi chancery judge Wes Teel.

Teel and fellow state judge John Whitfield were convicted along with attorney Paul Minor on a variety of corruption charges. All three are Democrats, and the prosecution was led by the Republican-controlled Bush Justice Department.

Minor has been in federal prison for several months, currently near Pensacola, FL. Teel and Whitfield are to report to federal prison on December 27, four days from now. That prospect probably does not make for a terribly cheery Christmas.

But keep this fact in mind: All three of these men did not commit the crimes they were charged with. A jury found them guilty of bribery, honest-services mail fraud, and conspiracy because of wrongdoing by U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate.

Wingate gave the jury unlawful instructions related to the two key charges--bribery and honest-services mail fraud. And he improperly did not allow the defense to put on expert witnesses who would have shown that Teel and Whitfield ruled correctly under the law on underlying lawsuits involving Minor's clients. In other words, they were not influenced by loan guarantees they had received from Minor, which are legal under Mississippi law.

So not only is Wingate responsible for sending three innocent men to prison--for political reasons--but he appears to be making a special effort to toy with Teel and his family.

George Lucas, Teel's attorney, filed a motion some time ago that Teel be allowed to remain free pending his appeal. Wingate has refused to rule on it. Does this sound familiar to those who have followed the Don Siegelman/Judge Mark Fuller saga in Alabama?

Lucas was supposed to meet last Monday with Wingate. One issue they were to discuss was a motion for extension of time to report. The motion was filed mainly because Teel's wife, Myrna, has multiple sclerosis and will require close care while her husband is in prison. The family has made arrangements for Teel's daughter-in-law to be with his wife while the Teels' son works during the day. But Teel's daughter-in-law has epilepsy and needs time to adjust to a new anti-seizure medication.

Does any of this concern Judge Wingate? Evidently not. He stiffed Lucas on the meeting repeatedly last week. Lucas had an appointment, but the meeting still has not taken place.

Teel compared Wingate's antics to psychological torture. And that is an apt term. Psychological torture has been applied to Don Siegelman, Paul Minor, and numerous other folks who had the temerity to be politically active and effective Democrats. There is evidence to strongly suggest psychological torture is being employed against Jill Simpson, the Republican whistleblower in the Siegelman case.

It's ironic that Teel used the term "psychological torture" in an e-mail to me about his situation. My wife and I have used that term at several key points in our own ordeal with corrupt Republican judges in Alabama state courts.

This goes back to a point I've made several times on this blog: The modern Republican party is infested with sociopaths, people who do not have a functioning, healthy conscience.

I've had the good fortune to get to know Wes and Myrna Teel via e-mail in recent months. This blog, and our shared status as victims of gross injustice, brought us together. The Teels seem like delightful people; Wes somehow has managed to maintain a sense of humor and it is on display at his Gulf Coast Realist blog.

But my anger and sadness at the Teels' plight goes beyond the fact that I find Wes to be a genuinely likable fellow, and he makes a great e-mail buddy, and we share a similar political philosophy. I've had little if any direct communication with Paul Minor and John Whitfield, but I also grieve for them

So why grieve for people I've never met and hardly know? I grieve because of what this says about our country.

Through more than 25 posts in our Mississippi Churning series, I have shown that these three men are innocent of the charges brought against them. And it's not even a close call. That prosecutor Dunn Lampton--a GOP appointee with reasons to have a personal ax to grind with Paul Minor--would bring the charges, is a disgrace. That Wingate would allow the case to go to a jury, and then make numerous unlawful rulings to ensure conviction, is despicable.

I hope there is an especially warm corner of hell that will someday occupy the likes of Lampton and Wingate (not to mention Mark Fuller, Leura Canary, Alice Martin and numerous GOPers in Alabama).

But assuming that these scoundrels will be on earth for a while, I have a suggestion for Democrats: First, take every action necessary (under the law) to ensure that a Democrat wins the White House in 2008. And then push hard for aggressive prosecutors to be placed in the U.S. attorneys offices in Mississippi, Alabama, and the rest of the nation. And give these pit bulls a mandate to go after the GOP slimebags who have turned our justice department into a corrupt carnival in recent years. The statute of limitations on many GOP crimes will not have run out by 2009, and these criminals must be punished.

I've heard it said that many Jews have taken a "never again" approach to the conditions that led to the Holocaust. I would suggest that Democrats take a similar approach to administering justice to the sociopaths who have sullied our nation. The time to develop an action plan for justice is right now.

In the name of Wes Teel, Don Siegelman, Paul Minor, and others who have suffered from GOP psychological torture, Democrats must be prepared to see that justice is done.

Church, State, and Siegelman

Robby Scott Hill's Novationeering blog is invariably interesting and often highly entertaining.

Hill has been both recently, posting in rare form.

First, he spotlights the not-always-ethical role the Catholic Church has played in Alabama politics. In fact, he notes that former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was viewed as a liberal Catholic, representing interests that were adverse to the church. Meanwhile, former Attorney General Bill Pryor was viewed as a conservative catholic who wholeheartedly backed the church's interests.

Hill notes that it was Pryor who initiated the investigation that led to Siegelman's downfall. Did the antipathy between the two men go beyond political differences? Did it have its genesis in religious difference? And did the Catholic church support the targeting of Don Siegelman?

Hill goes on to note my own interesting legal battle, which appears to have roots through Briarwood Presbyterian Church, a large evangelical, conservative Birmingham congregation with its own private school. This church has strong connections to The Birmingham News, and I've noted how my legal woes seem to be connected to a strange real-estate deal involving the powerhouse football program at Briarwood Christian High School.

Our ethical standards supposedly have their roots in the Bible. But do those who are most likely to quote The Good Book follow an ethical path? Hill does an excellent job of raising that question.
He also appears to be in the process of gathering some most interesting dirt on a number of Alabama politicos. I think we all will want to stay tuned for that.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Reporter Sighting in Alabama?

This might come as a shock, but there are signs that an Alabama-based journalist (aside from bloggers) is actually doing some reporting.

Reporters at small papers in south Alabama have done some good work in the past year on the rampant Republican sleaze in our state. But I can't think of a non-blogging journalist in the northern half of the state who has done squat.

That might be changing, thanks to Bob Gambacurta, who is turning out some serious stuff on the John W. Goff case in Montgomery. Gambacurta is a veteran of the Alabama journalism and political scene, and he reports for the Montgomery Independent on the nastiness between Goff and Alabama Governor Bob Riley.

Goff filed a lawsuit, claiming that Riley and others had conspired to ruin one of Goff's insurance company. In apparent retaliation pushed by Riley, the GOP-led U.S. attorney's office in Montgomery initiated what appears to be a flimsy criminal investigation of Goff.

Gambacurta reports that U.S. Justice Department officials have informed Goff's attorneys that Main Justice in Washington will oversee the federal grand-jury investigation into insurance fraud allegations against Goff.

David Margolis, an associate deputy attorney general in Washington, does not remove assistants in the Montgomery office from the case. He says supervision of the case will remain with Montgomery prosecutor Louis Franklin, but oversight will come from Washington.

Sounds like that's only so-so news for Goff.

In a column earlier this week, Gambacurta lays out a series of questions raised by the Goff case. A sampler:

* Why did federal prosecutors launch a grand jury investigation of Goff just months after Goff filed suit against Gov. Riley?

* Why are federal prosecutors using a 3-4 year old complaint which deals with litigation that has long since been resolved, as the basis for the Goff investigation?

* Why did U.S. Attorney Leura Canary recuse herself from the Goff investigation and not recuse the assistant U.S. attorneys who work for her?

* Why does Mrs. Canary refuse to make public her recusal documents?

And here's an interesting one:

* Why, after interviewing Goff's CPA, who staunchly defended Goff and refuted all the charges against him, are federal prosecutors not bringing the accountant before the grand jury to testify?

"These and many other questions will be answered when and if Goff's suit comes to trial," Gambacurta reports.

It seems clear that Riley and his GOP henchpeople are doing everything they can to ensure that does not happen.

But I get the sense that Gambacurta smells the stench of Alabama Republicans. Let's hope he continues to follow the smelly trail.

Will Dirt Stick to Siegelman Judge?

Larisa Alexandrovna, of at-Largely and Raw Story, provides an update on the 60 Minutes Don Siegelman story--along with an extremely juicy tidbit toward the end.

Drawing on a blog post by Tommy Stevenson of the Tuscaloosa News, Alexandrovna reports that the Siegelman segment probably will air in January. Siegelman supporters had been expecting it to run in December.

Toward the end of her post, Alexandrovna drops a couple of bombshells:

* "And I also have to wonder from whom it was that (former Alabama attorney general Bill) Pryor took bribes and for what purpose?

* "And for those of you who love a good sex scandal, is anyone looking into how (U.S. District Judge Mark) Fuller's alleged mistress is able to maintain her lifestyle?"

Yow! How are those for kickers?

The Fuller item is particularly juicy. If you recall, the affidavit from Missouri attorney Paul Benton Weeks outlined a litany of misconduct by Fuller several years before he oversaw the Siegelman prosecution. At the heart of Weeks' charges was evidence that Fuller had misused public funds in order to provide favors for a colleague who had served under him as district attorney.

Could Fuller also have used public funds for a mistress who served under him . . . oh wait, that's a really bad pun? Better close this post while I'm ahead.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Schnauzer Spy Story, Part II

After more than a year of looking, your wife receives extremely positive feedback on a job with one of your area's largest employers. The position is an excellent fit with her previous experience. She and the woman doing the hiring hit it off great.

In fact, the woman tells your wife some things that, by law, she really shouldn't have said. Several people in their 20s had held the job and didn't find it exciting enough and soon wanted to get promoted. That had caused the position to become a revolving door. The job was important to the functioning of the organization, but the woman decided she needed someone older who could manage the job's details and would be happy to stay in the position a while. People really aren't supposed to base hires on age issues such as that, but this is the woman's way of saying your wife is exactly the kind of person she is looking for.

The woman invites your wife back for a second interview and tells her this is "just a formality." Your wife takes that to mean, realistically you think, that the job is pretty much hers. The woman says she wants to make a hire quickly, so it only seems a matter of time before your wife has a job that she is very excited about.

But days, and then weeks, go by and you still haven't heard anything. Finally, you discover that the hiring decision has been taken out of the hands of the woman who had interviewed your wife. They wind up hiring someone who did not match at all the characteristics your wife had been told they were looking for. Your wife is devastated, and so are you, but she presses on.

With clouds forming over your financial picture, your wife has more strange experiences in the job search. A doctor seems to love your wife's outgoing personality and maturity. The doctor says that's exactly what she needs in a front-office position for her practice. Your wife doesn't get the job.

One interviewer gives your wife extremely positive feedback on a customer-service position and promises to get back with her in a few days. When a couple of weeks go by with no word, your wife calls the woman. We couldn't give you the job because we needed someone with customer-service experience, the woman says. "My resume says that I have eight years of customer-service experience with one of the top companies in the state," your wife says. "Oh," the woman says. "Good luck in your job search."

One man at a dental-supplies company is so impressed with your wife that he interviews her for three hours. He says a decision will be made in a few days, and is most encouraging. Your wife hears nothing for more than a week, and the man does not respond several times when she leaves phone messages. Finally, he comes to the phone and says he's hired someone else. No explanation. Guess he interviewed that person for four hours.

Then a national insurance firm shows interest in your wife. She takes a test that apparently is rather difficult. The two applicants who took it with her, fail. She passes. Her interview goes well, and she is told a decision will be made in two weeks. The company is hiring for multiple positions and expects to hire at least 20 people. Two days later, your wife receives notice that she will not be hired. The letter is dated the day after her interview.

That night, you and your wife wake up in bed with the identical thought. "You know," you say, "it's almost as if someone is going around behind you to cost you these jobs." "I was having that same thought," she says.

Who would want to do that? How could someone do that?

(To be continued)

Bob Riley and the ExxonMobil Screw Job

Did Alabama Governor Bob Riley actually approve of the Alabama Supreme Court's decision to overturn a jury verdict that would have awarded the state $3.6 billion in a case against oil giant ExxonMobil?

Well, it's looking more and more like our goober of a governor actually thinks it's a good thing that his state got screwed out of billions of dollars.

First, Riley announced that he would not even seek to have the Supreme Court rehear its ruling--which, by the way, any first-year law student could see was unlawfully made. Now, we have Riley touting the fact that the American Tort Reform Association has removed Alabama from its list of "Judicial Hellholes."

"Alabama today is recognized more than we ever have been before for judicial reform and tort reform we've had over the past few years," Riley said. "Impressions of the rest of the country have changed for the better."

Changed for the better? By having our corporate courts rob us of a huge verdict that was earned because a jury found the ExxonMobil had committed fraud in underpaying on natural-gas royalties?

What does the rest of the country really think? That Alabamians are a bunch of dupes for electing goobers like Riley for governor and common corporate crooks for seats on its appellate courts.

This lends more evidence to what many of us have suspected for some time: that Riley did not want the ExxonMobil ruling to be upheld. After all, the same bunch of corporate types who put eight Republicans on the nine-person Supreme Court also put Riley into office.

This concept of "judicial hellholes" is another example of conservatives' gift for playing tricks with the language. "We're pro life," they say. Oh really, then how come you supported raising speed limits on interstates, which has been proven to cost lives? "We're for fiscal responsibility," they say. Oh really, then how come the national debt explodes every time you are in charge?

The truth is this: Alabama has never been a bigger judicial hellhole than it is right now. And the focal point of that hellhole is in the Republican enclave of Shelby County--and probably in the Republican enclave of Baldwin County, where evidence suggests Riley supporters stole the 2002 election from Don Siegelman.

And thanks to the ExxonMobil ruling, we know that the judicial hellhole includes our highest court. But that's not news to us here at Legal Schnauzer. We already knew Alabama appellate courts cheated people and violated their own rules. In the weeks ahead, we will be showing you exactly how they do it.

More Hoover, Briarwood Connections

The Birmingham News tonight is reporting that Oxford High School's Josh Niblett is the favorite to be named the new head coach at Hoover High School.

Earlier in the day, the News reported that Hoover had narrowed to six its list of candidates for replacing Rush Propst.

We here at Legal Schnauzer found it interesting that one of the six was Jay Mathews, head coach at Christ Presbyterian Christian Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. Mathews spent 13 seasons as an assistant coach at Briarwood Christian High School in Birmingham.

We have noted in a series of posts that my legal problems coincided with a peculiar real-estate deal involving Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey, my former neighbor and Jay Mathews' former boss. The real-estate deal, which wound up with Yancey moving to a house on the Briarwood campus, coincided with Hoover's previous coaching search. That search ended with the hiring of Propst in 1999.

I have speculated that in late 1998, early 1999, Hoover might have been interested in Yancey for its coaching position. And it might have been even more interested in Briarwood's two star players at the time, Tim and Simeon Castille, who went on to play at the University of Alabama.

I have speculated that Briarwood, in a hasty effort to keep Yancey and two stud players, initiated a poorly executed real-estate deal that led to all sorts of legal and financial headaches for yours truly. And we have noted the curious fact that the ethically challenged opposing attorney who filed the lawsuit (William E. Swatek) and the corrupt judge who unlawfully kept it going (J. Michael Joiner) have ties to Briarwood Christian School.

Several readers have scoffed at the notion that someone who was committed to Christian education at Briarwood would consider taking a position to teach and coach a bunch of heathens at a public school like Hoover.

Well, it certainly looks like Jay Mathews is interested in Hoover. And I still wonder if his mentor, Fred Yancey, was interested in Hoover back in late 1998. Today's News story says Yancey recommended Mathews for the Hoover job. Sounds like we have some connections there.

Some people seem to think that folks who wear their religion on their sleeves are somehow more noble than the rest of us. That, unlike us, they aren't tempted by things like power, fame, money, and even greed.

I'm always amused when I hear that because I suspect almost all outwardly Christian football coaches are just like other football coaches--they want to win games and they want to get paid as much as possible to do it. And if they are more likely to accomplish those things at a public school, my guess is they would be more than happy to leave their Christian school.

Anyway, Mathews' interest in the Hoover job certainly does not prove my theory. But it made a certain schnauzer's ears twitch a bit.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bits and Pieces for $50, Alex

The Process of Panic?
What does the release of Lanny Young mean in the evolving story of a corrupt Bush Justice Department? Young, a chief accuser of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, has been released by U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller.

That's the same Judge Fuller who has ensured that Siegelman and Richard Scrushy would be held in federal prison pending their appeals.

Larisa Alexandrovna, who is leading a Raw Story investigation on the Siegelman case, has an interesting take at her personal blog, at-Largely. Alexandrovna says Young's release could be a sign of panic among such GOP luminaries as Fuller and U.S. attorneys Leura Canary and Alice Martin.

And then there is federal prosecutor Steve Feaga. Alexandrovna makes an intriguing reference to Feaga and visits to Rosemary Beach (Karl Rove?). She goes on to state that Feaga might be the most likely candidate to pay a serious price if various investigations finally hit home.

Whither Noel Hillman?
The Emptywheel blog raises interesting questions about Noel Hillman, the former director of the U.S. Public Integrity Section and now a federal judge.

Emptywheel reports that Hillman has received a subpoena to testify in the Beam v. Gonzalez case in Chicago. Beam is the lawsuit that came from an apparent Justice Department attempt to target law firms that contributed to the John Edwards campaign.

You might recall, that we have wondered if the DOJ campaign against Edwards donors was behind the Paul Minor prosecution in Mississippi, the subject of many posts here at Legal Schnauzer.

It looks like Hillman's deposition actually did not take place as scheduled. But Emptywheel states that this apparently marks the first time that someone outside of Congress has subpoenaed someone alleged to have politicized prosecutions at the Bush DOJ.

Scott Horton, at Harper's, has reported that Hillman's fingerprints were all over the Siegelman and Minor prosecutions.

In fact, Emptywheel quotes a segment from Jill Simpson's testimony before Congress, in which she states that Hillman evidently was the DOJ contact that Karl Rove was arm-twisting to go after Siegelman.

Lott and State Farm
Emptywheel also has a most interesting post about U.S. Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) and his mysterious decision to retire at the end of the year.

A post from today presents significant evidence that Lott had an almost pathological hatred of State Farm in the aftermath of damage to his home from Hurricane Katrina.

This connects closely to our recent post noting that Lott might have a problem with possible extortion in his efforts to get back at the giant insurance company for failing to provide full coverage on the damage to his home.

Emptywheel is a new discovery for us here at Legal Schnauzer. Looks like that is a site that demands regular checks.

An Update on Animal-Cruelty Case
We have been following the case of Anne, the beagle in Cullman County, Alabama, who had to be euthanized after she was skinned over much of her body.

Investigators initially focused on a human culprit. But an examination by an Auburn University pathologist indicates that the skinning appeared to have been done by a machine and could have been the result of an accident. Officials said a mishap with farm equipment or some other kind of machinery could have caused Anne's injuries.

About $35,000 in reward money has been collected in the case. Officials said the case remains open, but the investigation has been scaled back.

A Schnauzer Spy Story

Americans seem to love a good spy story. Whether it's James Bond movies or books by authors such as Robert Ludlum, John le Carre, or Tom Clancy, we can't seem to get enough of the spy trade.

So we offer our own little spy story here at Legal Schnauzer. At least I think it's a spy story. I don't have all the facts nailed down just yet. But I'm getting close. If, and when, I get there, some folks are going to be facing serious issues with federal authorities.

Of course, we already know that federal authorities themselves are abusing the telecommunications industry to illegally gather information on citizens. But I would suggest that abusive surveillance is not limited to federal officials.

Why do we Americans tend to enjoy a good spy story? Probably because of their escapist entertainment value. But I'm talking about a spy story that isn't much fun, particularly when you and someone you love appear to be the victims of spying and are paying a big price because of it. I'm talking about the kind of spying and surveillance that is against the law, big time. And if I'm on the right track, and can prove it, we're talking about gross abuse of federal wires and privacy laws by people in positions of public trust.

I don't have all of the specifics confirmed yet, so let me write about this in a general way. Many readers, I'm sure, are interested in the technical matters of surveillance, and those folks might find this spy story particularly compelling. But how might illegal spying hit close to home for regular folks, conducted by local officials? What's it like to be on the receiving end of unlawful spying--or at least to highly suspect you are on the receiving end?

Let me ask you to put yourself into this somewhat imaginary scenario, which is very similar to what I have experienced:

Imagine that, through no fault of your own, you have ticked off a state judge. You only came in contact with this judge because someone filed a bogus lawsuit against you (using an unethical attorney in the process), and you are forced to defend yourself. The case, by law, has to be dismissed (summary judgment) in a matter of six to eight months, but the judge repeatedly makes strange rulings, causing the case to drag on for months, for years.

You visit your local law library to conduct research on the judge's rulings and discover that he is cheating you blind. You also discover that your attorney has to know about this, but is doing nothing to serve your interests, instead playing an ugly and illegal game of softball--at the judge's urging, it seems clear.

The judge, you realize, is corrupt. And once you fire your first attorney--and then a second, who also wishes to play footsie with the judge--you begin to represent yourself. Immediately, you file court documents that let the judge know three things: (A) You know what he's up to; (B) You aren't going to play along; (C) You aren't going to be quiet about his wrongdoing.

This is how you ticked off the judge--by standing up for yourself.

Further imagine this: In the course of these legal proceedings, it becomes known to the opposing side (whose attorney has a cozy relationship with the corrupt judge) that your wife is looking for work.

Your wife has a spotless personal and employment history. She is only in the job market because she had taken a voluntary severance package from her previous employer, which was going through a downsizing after she had worked there for almost 18 years.

For family-health reasons, your wife winds up being out of the workplace longer than expected. But when you are in the midst of this legal unpleasantness, your wife both wants, and needs, to return to the workplace.

With her having been out of the workplace a little longer than planned, you figure it might take some time for her to land a job. But your area's employment picture is good, her work and personal history are spotless, her previous employer was (and is) one of the most respected companies in the state, and she is realistic about positions she should be pursuing. In other words, she is looking for positions that are at or below her level of qualifications. And her qualifications are stout. She was an honor student throughout her time in school, from grade school through college.

Months go by, turning into more than a year, and your wife is having no luck in her job search. Actually, no luck is not quite accurate. She is getting lots and lots of interest--interviews seem to go well, she passes tests with flying colors, hiring managers give her very positive feedback.

But there are no job offers. Meanwhile, you regularly read stories in the local newspaper about your area's low unemployment rate. In fact, employers within a 10-mile radius of where you live are almost desperate for workers. This is the area where your wife is concentrating her job search, but she can't get an offer.

Because of the strain of the lawsuit and your wife's unexpected difficulty in landing a job, your once solid financial picture is starting to darken.

And then things begin to get strange.

(To be continued)

Spies On Us

Issues of surveillance and spying have been very much in the news in recent days. The reports, starting with a major investigation in The New York Times, deal with national and international surveillance, supposedly targeted at terrorism and drug trafficking.

But what if surveillance hit closer to home, targeting regular folks like you and me? I have evidence to suggest that it has hit close to home for your humble blogger, and I will present that information soon.

But first, let's consider the larger, national issue. Scott Horton, of Harper's, says The New York Times article describes "the dawn of a new National Surveillance State in the United States, a public-private partnership. And the object of the partnership--which emerges as a criminal conspiracy, quite literally, between telecom companies and the Bush Administration--is to watch and listen to you and everything you do.

"Of course, they will say it's about 'terrorists', or about 'narcotics traffickers.' And indeed every authoritarian and wannabe totalitarian system from the dawn of time has cast its snooping on citizens in just those terms."

A key point Horton makes: This involves abuse of, and by, telecommunications providers. And what if a telecom company objects to mistreating citizens and skirting the law? One company, Qwest, did object. And its CEO quickly became the subject of a Justice Department investigation. Nice.

Glenn Greenwald, of Salon, also weighs in on The Times report. "What these revelations highlight--yet again--is that the U.S. has become precisely the kind of surveillance state that we were always told was the hallmark of tyrannical societies, with literally no limits on the government's ability or willingness to spy on its own citizens," Greenwald writes.

But let's return to our earlier point: Is abusive surveillance limited to national officials? Is it possible that government officials closer to your home might be using the telecom industry in an abusive way?

I have evidence to suggest that such a scenario certainly is possible. Am I a paranoid crackpot or a true victim of official surveillance? You be the judge.

I don't have all of the facts in my situation nailed down, so I will write about it in somewhat theoretical terms, inviting you to walk in my shoes and see what you think. I can guarantee that I'm not remotely connected to terrorism or drug trafficking. But we already suspect such ties are not necessary for the folks who live in BushWorld to want to check you out.

Come along for an interesting tale. We'll call it a "Schnauzer Spy Story."