Sunday, December 2, 2007

Natalee Holloway and the Grandstander

The Natalee Holloway case is back in the news, which calls to mind Alabama Governor Bob Riley's shameless grandstanding in a tragic matter. It also calls to mind Riley's hypocritical, two-faced stand on justice-related issues.

Three suspects were arrested November 21 on suspicion of involvement in Holloway's disappearance. The recent arrests appeared to be based on new evidence uncovered by investigators, but two of the suspects were released on Friday.

As for Riley, we've posted before about his willingness to use a tragedy in order to score political points. Alabama's governor was among the first to call for a travel boycott of Aruba because of that nation's handling of the Holloway matter.

Just how absurd was Riley's call for a boycott? Consider this case about residents of New York and Texas being brutally murdered at Birmingham's Airport Inn in 2005. That crime was solved, thanks largely to a hotel security camera. But should the governors of New York and Texas call for boycotts of Alabama because two of their constituents lost their lives in our state?

In fact, given Alabama's overall ghastly crime rate, should Bob Riley be pointing a finger at anybody on crime-related issues?

As we noted earlier, Riley went on Fox's O'Reilly Factor to tout his boycott idea. Even Bill O'Reilly sensed the possible hypocrisy at work and asked Riley about Alabama's justice system. The governor replied that anyone who had experienced problems with Alabama's justice system should contact him.

I, the victim of grotesque judicial corruption in Alabama courts (led at the time by a Riley appointee) contacted the governor and received a form letter as a reply. Riley said he had forwarded the matter to his chief legal advisor, who was bound by law to report the wrongdoing to an appropriate tribunal. I never head anything more about it.

Well, I recently went to the governor's official Web site and sent him another missive about my case. This time, I kept a copy of my message. Here is the message, which has received zero reply from the governor's office since it was sent September 26. And the lack of a response raises this question: Is Bob Riley really interested in justice or did he just take advantage of the Holloway case to do some grandstanding on national TV?

Governor Riley:
I sent you an e-mail in November 2005, telling you about my concerns over judicial corruption I have experienced in Alabama courts. This came after your appearance on the
O'Reilly Factor, encouraging a boycott of Aruba over that nation's handling of the Natalee Holloway disappearance. You also stated that, if anyone had experienced problems with Alabama's justice system, you wanted to know about it.

Assuming you were serious about this, I sent you an e-mail that provided details about wrongdoing by state judges, and attorneys, in Alabama. In a letter dated Dec. 7, 2005, you stated that you had referred the matter to Ken Wallis, your chief legal advisor. I've heard nothing from Mr. Wallis, and to my knowledge, no one in your administration has done anything to address the corruption I witnessed.

I'm writing now to ask this question: Are you serious about ethics or not?

A few details about my experience you should know:

* The corruption involved repeated unlawful rulings, starting in district court and going up to the Alabama Supreme Court. Every unlawful ruling was made by a judge who is a Republican. At the time, our court system was overseen by one of your appointees, Drayton Nabers.

* The opposing counsel, the attorney who filed the bogus lawsuit against me (on behalf of a client with at least eight criminal convictions in his background), is William E. Swatek, of Pelham.

* You might know Mr. Swatek better as the father of Dax Swatek, your campaign manager.

* To say that William E. Swatek has a sleazy history in the legal field would be putting it mildly. He has been disciplined three times by the Alabama State Bar (one of those involved five complaints rolled into one). He has had his license suspended for acts that involved dishonesty, deceit, misrepresentation, etc. He even has been tried for perjury in criminal court.

* Despite Mr. Swatek's unsavory background, he has repeatedly been the beneficiary of unlawful rulings by Alabama judges. Why is that? From where I sit, it looks like Mr. Swatek is being protected because his son works for you.

* You have repeatedly been quoted as saying you strongly support ethical government, and you condemn cronyism, such as that in Alabama's two-year college system. Well, are you serious about that or not? Does that apply when the wrongdoing is committed by a family member of someone who has worked for you?

* I thought Republicans are against frivolous lawsuits. The lawsuit Bill Swatek filed against me would have to improve a whole lot to reach the level of frivolous; fraudulent would be a better term.

* I thought Republicans supported the rule of law. The judges I've seen firsthand treat the law like a plaything.

One final thought: When members of the Alabama State Bar possess knowledge of wrongdoing by another lawyer or a judge, they are required to report said wrongdoing to an appropriate body or tribunal. According to your letter of Dec. 7, 2005, Mr. Wallis has possessed wrongdoing by lawyers and judges for almost two years, and he has done nothing about it. Will you see to it that Mr. Wallis does as he is required to do under the law?

Governor, if you and Mr. Wallis did not understand the seriousness of this matter the first time around, let me make it clear now: This matter is about as serious as it can get for my wife and me, and we expect our leaders to take it seriously too. We have suffered almost overwhelming financial, emotional, and physical hardship because of the corruption in this case.

My life even may be in danger; I was the victim of a felony assault by Mr. Swatek's client. Interestingly, Shelby County DA Robby Owens (another Republican) insists it was a misdemeanor, no matter how much statutory and case law clearly say it was a felony. While we're at it, would you care to do something about that assault case? Do Republicans really believe in being tough on crime or is that just a cute campaign slogan? Do I have to wind up dead from a gunshot wound before someone in authority takes this problem seriously?

Would you please explain to me, in writing, what you intend to do about my situation? Would you please explain to me how two law-abiding people can be made financially whole from the harm done by "officers" of Alabama courts? Would you give me some assurance that my personal safety matters at least a little bit?

Finally, would you hold up your end of the bargain you made on national television two years ago--to take problems in our justice system seriously and do something to help those who have suffered from them?


Roger Shuler

1 comment:

Robby Scott Hill said...

Outstanding analysis! I would recommend you for law school, but my name alone would probably keep you out. If the State Bar ever allows non-lawyers to sit on a committee, you should be one of them.