Monday, March 31, 2008
My wife reports that the version she heard while growing up in Alabama was telling someone "how the hog ate the cabbage."
Typical of Southerners. They always embellish things a little.
Anyway, yours truly is a bit fed up with the corrupt Republicans who run Shelby County and send bogus legal documents threatening to seize my house and have their deputies leave repeated harassing phone calls that have nothing to do with official or lawful business.
So I decided to tell someone "how the hog ate the cabbage." (See, I'm officially a Southerner now. I've adopted the Alabama version.)
I decided to start with Shelby County Clerk Mary Harris, who you might call the "Queen of the Jack Booted Thugs." After all, it was Ms. Harris who signed the writ of execution dated September 21, 2007, that started a long line of threats to seize my property.
Actually, I'm not so much interested in telling Ms. Harris "how the hog ate the cabbage." She's been around the Shelby County Courthouse a long time, and I'm sure she's well aware that it's a corrupt cesspool. But she benefits from the cesspool, making a nice state salary with nice state benefits, so she keeps her mouth shut and sends out documents that she probably knows are bogus.
More than anything, I wanted to try a psychological experiment on Ms. Harris. I've met Ms. Harris a time or two, and on the surface, she seems like a perfectly nice person. She impresses you as someone who has a conscience.
But I get the feeling that even relatively "good people" check their consciences at the door when they enter the Shelby County Courthouse for official duty. So I wanted to see if we could determine whether Ms. Harris has a conscience in her role as Shelby County Clerk. Do small matters like "due process of law," "equal protection," and "civil rights" mean anything to her? And how will she respond when confronted with clear evidence that she is involved in a clear scheme to violate someone's "constitutional rights"? How will that realization affect her, given that she almost certainly self-identifies as a "conservative" and "patriotic" person? In short, does Mary Harris have a soul?
Don't know if we will get answers to those questions. But here is my missive to Mary Harris. It spells out quite clearly what is going on among Republicans in Shelby County, Alabama. Let's see if Ms. Harris cares to respond.
I am in receipt of a writ of execution that you issued on Sept. 21, 2007, I assume based upon application by attorney William E. Swatek.
Subsequent to receipt of this writ, I received a notice of levy from Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry, along with a notice of sheriff's sale, notifying me that my home (which is co-owned by my wife, not to mention our mortgage company) is going to be sold at auction on April 7 to satisfy a "judgment" in favor of Mr. Swatek's client, Mike McGarity.
I have a number of concerns about these documents and the events that led up to them:
* Rule 69 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a writ of execution and notice of levy be accompanied by a "notice of right to claim exemptions." I've never received such a notice as required by law. Therefore, any action you or Sheriff Curry instigate is invalid under the law and is a violation of my rights to due process.
* Code of Alabama 6-9-211 requires that a certificate of judgment be recorded before a lien, execution, or levy can be carried out. I've received no indication that such a certificate has been recorded. Again, any action you or Sheriff Curry instigate is invalid by law and is a violation of my rights to due process.
* The judgment itself, upon which your writ is based, is void because my rights to due process were butchered by Judges J. Michael Joiner and G. Dan Reeves. (Greene v. Connelly, 628 So. 2d 346, Ala. 1993). Anyone with a beginner's knowledge of the law could look at the McGarity v. Shuler case file and see that Judges Joiner and Reeves repeatedly acted corruptly in my case, and that Mr. Swatek (who has an almost 30-year history of violating basic ethics of the legal profession) was the beneficiary of these corrupt rulings. I realize that you and Sheriff Curry are not the overseers of the judges and Mr. Swatek. But their actions have caused both you and Sheriff Curry to take actions that violate my civil rights. Perhaps you aren't concerned about that. In fact, I've not seen evidence that anyone at the Shelby County Courthouse cares about citizens' civil rights. But from where I sit, it looks like these judges and Mr. Swatek are leading you down a dangerous path.
* By the way, just so you know, since this "judgment" was entered some 3 1/2 years ago, Mr. Swatek has never called me or sent me a letter asking me to pay it. Evidently, even he knows it's bogus. But he used you and Sheriff Curry to start making threats at seizing my property. These threats did not begin until I started writing a blog last summer. I find that quite curious. Thought you might find it curious as well. Evidence strongly suggests you are being used in order to shut down a blog.
* The writ of execution in this matter has a check by the box that says "Exemptions as to Personal Property waived." What does this mean and who instructed you to write this? I've never waived any exemptions to my property. And as I said, Mr. Swatek has never even asked for the judgment to be paid and evidently has never taken the simple step of having a certificate of judgment recorded.
* Perhaps you and Sheriff Curry are as cavalier about constitutional rights as the judges are in Shelby County. But I thought I should give you fair warning that there are numerous problems with the threatening documents you have sent me. They are unlawful, invalid, unconstitutional, and fraudulent. Maybe that doesn't matter to you. But you can rest assured it matters to me.
The first "Greasy" goes, not surprisingly, to The Birmingham News for its Sunday editorial on the Siegelman case. Get a load of this paragraph:
In our view, Siegelman's actions leading to this case didn't serve the taxpayers' interests at all, and his justifications of those actions reflect a terribly cynical and sad view of political service. His actions as part of this criminal case haven't always reflected well on him, either.
The News is so full of feces with this it's hard to know where to start. But let's take a crack at it:
* What actions didn't serve the taxpayer's well? We're talking about a criminal case here. Any policy or administrative differences the News' honchos might have had with Siegelman are irrelevant. The whole point of the editorial is to comment on the latest activity in the criminal case. And the key fact is this: Six of the seven counts for which Siegelman was convicted involved a transaction with former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. The seventh count was for obstruction of justice, which is a "piggyback" charge dependant on other charges. Therefore, the conviction was based totally on the Siegelman/Scrushy transaction. All of the "actions" the News seems to be referring to--the warehouse stuff, the landfill stuff, the motorcycle stuff--were rejected by the jury. So what was wrong with the Siegelman/Scrushy transaction? Under the law--and the News never seems to find the time to mention what the law on bribery and honest-services mail fraud actually says--not a thing. Scrushy clearly was qualified to serve on the Certificate of Need Board and had served on the board under three previous governors. We know he had made campaign contributions to at least one of those other governors, Republican Fob James. So again, how did Siegelman not serve taxpayers' well?
* What is cynical and sad about Siegelman's justifications for his actions? First of all, Siegelman isn't justifying anything. He's having to defend himself in criminal court. But consider these questions: Is it cynical and sad for Republican Governor Bob Riley to get a sweetheart contribution from Huntsville supporters, who then get massive amounts of state dollars for a biotech deal? Is it cynical and sad that numerous Riley cronies, including his children, have done quite well with no-bid state contracts? Is it cynical and sad that Riley evidently violated state campaign-finance laws, and none of the state's daily newspapers has looked into it? Is it cynical and sad that evidence strongly suggests that someone electronically manipulated the vote totals that put Bob Riley in office in the first place? Is it cynical and sad that when Montgomery insurance executive John Goff files a lawsuit against Riley for helping to ruin one of Goff's businesses, the governor apparently pushes to have Goff investigated by federal authorities? Is it cynical and sad that Riley has well established ties to felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, and that GOP presidential candidate John McCain took steps to hide these ties, and the News has written nothing substantive about it?
* His actions as part of this criminal case haven't always reflected well on him, either? Oh, really? What on earth does this mean? Sounds like the Newsies are upset that Siegelman didn't roll over and play dead for their puppet judge, Mark Fuller. What inappropriate actions did Siegelman take during the course of the criminal case--other than try to defend himself? The News doesn't tell us, and I have no idea what they are talking about.
As for our second "Greasy," it goes to the Alabama Republican Party and its chief, Mike Hubbard. When Siegelman was released from federal prison pending appeal, there was no reason for Hubbard to say anything. The ruling didn't involve Hubbard or the Alabama Republican Party.
But since Hubbard was asked for comment, he could have shown some respect for the seriousness of the issues involved by saying something like: "Former Governor Siegelman is entitled to a full and fair appeal. We will continue to watch his case with interest." Or he could have said, "This matter does not involve the Alabama Republican Party, so I would prefer not to comment."
But no, Hubbard couldn't do that. Instead he had to issue one of the most tasteless statements I've seen from a public official in quite some time. Here is what Hubbard had to say:
"The former Governor's release pending appeal does not change the conviction by a jury of his peers. It would be premature to turn this development into anything other than a formality."
Both sentences put Hubbard's ignorance on full display. A jury's verdict is only as good as the judicial rulings and jury instructions it is given. If a judge puts garbage in, the jury is going to spew garbage out. Hubbard evidently has no clue about criminal or civil procedure. And the second sentence? Siegelman's release came because trial judge Mark Fuller failed miserably in his efforts to justify, in writing, Siegelman's imprisonment pending appeal. Fuller's memorandum opinion puts the judge's incompetence and bias on glaring display. And yet Hubbard considers that a mere formality.
Mike Hubbard has all the class of a truckstop hooker. Republicans should be embarrassed to be represented by an individual who spews such nonsense.
Those of us who were transfixed by 60 Minutes' story on the Don Siegelman prosecution apparently can look forward to a Part II, perhaps this Sunday.
Scott Horton, of Harper's, reports that 60 Minutes is busily preparing a second installment on the Siegelman case. The timing couldn't be better, given Siegelman's release from federal prison last week.
Horton wonders, only slightly in jest, if Part II will be marred by the kind of "technical difficulties" that occurred during Part I at a Huntsville, Alabama, television station. Horton cites a Washington Independent story that shows how unlikely it was that such a blackout could occur accidentally.
Getting the Scoop on Karl's Digs
Horton provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the Raw Story piece on Karl Rove's fancy digs in Rosemary Beach, Florida.
Horton asked Larisa Alexandrovna how she and colleague Lindsay Beyerstein got the remarkable photographs that accompanied their story. You won't want to miss Alexandrovna's cloak-and-dagger tale.
Particularly interesting are comments from the locals, who are none too thrilled that King Karl is in their presence. It seems Turd Blossom is none too popular with his neighbors.
Now to be fair, I'm not too popular with one of my neighbors, Mike McGarity. But McGarity, the charming fellow who filed a bogus lawsuit against me, has at least eight criminal convictions in his background. He's exactly the kind of fellow that I do not want to be popular with.
Something tells me there are not too many criminal convictions among Rove's well-heeled neighbors. Perhaps there is a criminal conviction in King Karl's future, though.
They think they can say the most outrageous things, and nobody will question it. The latest GOPer to try this is U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
Harper's Scott Horton, who certainly is no dim bulb, does not let Mukasey get away with it.
Mukasey last week told an audience in San Francisco that he has seen no evidence that the Bush Justice Department allows politics to enter into public corruption probes. This evidently did not go over well with a skeptical audience in California. And Horton tries his best to suppress guffaws.
Mukasey's comments came at roughly the same time the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was announcing that former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman should be released pending appeal. Horton notes that Mukasey is more than just ignorant of what is going on around him. He is taking clear steps to stonewall any efforts to get at the truth.
To his credit, Mukasey does make this important statement: "A corruption investigation that is motivated by partisan politics is just corruption by another name." In other words, federal crime fighters who conduct their business in this way are themselves committing federal crimes.
But is Mukasey's department serious about attacking public corruption?
I would invite readers to try this little test. Go to the FBI's special Web page for reporting tips about public corruption. Send them a brief message about the Legal Schnauzer case and ask them to look into it. Feel free to send them a link to a post from the blog. This might be a good one from recent days.
See if you get a response from Mukasey's crime fighters. If you do, please let me know. I will be shocked beyond comprehension.
Harris interviewed Glynn Wilson of Locust Fork World News and your Legal Schnauzer correspondent on Sunday afternoon, and the story aired at 10 p.m. You can check out the Fox 6 story here.
Folks at Fox 6 have expressed interest in following up with other angles connected to the Siegelman story--and perhaps other justice-related issues in Alabama. We certainly welcome further inquiries.
This was my first chance to meet Glynn Wilson, the "Founder of the Fork," live and in person. He must have the coolest blogging pad on the planet. He calls it "The Bunker," and that's exactly what it looks like.
Maybe if we ever get the State of Alabama straightened out--and get justice for a number of folks who seriously need it--Wilson will be able to host a "Bunker Bash" to celebrate. I suspect that would be a good time.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
To that, we here at Legal Schnauzer can only say, "Go get 'em, Governor."
Anyone thinking Siegelman might act with timidity upon his release was sorely mistaken.
Siegelman promptly told The New York Times' Adam Nossiter that Rove's fingerprints were "smeared all over the case." Gee Don, could you be a little more specific?
Steve Benen, at The Carpetbagger Report, has an excellent piece on Siegelman's statements and the weak response from a member of Rove's team.
Let's see how the Republicans like it when Siegelman isn't fighting with both hands tied behind his back.
I'm still in the process of conducting legal research on the topics of execution, levy, exemptions etc., so my knowledge is not complete. But I want to try to address some issues that folks have raised.
At the moment, I'm acting as my own lawyer, so I need to be careful about how much I say. But let me take a crack at shining some light on a pretty dark situation:
* Why not just pay the $1,525? Believe it or not, I've never been asked to pay the money. I don't know about you, but I generally don't go around begging people to take my money. Even if the judgment were legitimate, and it isn't, no one has asked me to pay it. Why? Because they don't want the money. They want me to stop blogging.
* What about a lawyer? I've contacted two or three lawyers in the Birmingham area who have known progressive leanings and were recommended to me by a fellow blogger. None of them have responded to my e-mail messages. Here's the reason, I think: Judges have frightening power over the livelihoods of lawyers. A corrupt judge could ruin a lawyer's business. I'm disappointed that these local attorneys have not responded to my inquiries, but I'm not surprised. And given the hot-potato nature of what I'm facing, I can't say I blame them for steering clear of it. Also, my impression is judges are like the mafia--they stick together. A lawyer might practice mainly in Jefferson County, but if he stands up to a corrupt judge in Shelby County, chances are the lawyer will pay at the hands of the corrupt judge's buddies in Jefferson County.
* Are you totally on your own? Well, I'm not sure. I've got some legal contacts outside the Birmingham area. Not sure if they will be able to help, but that is a possibility. The key legal issue, in my mind, is civil rights. To seize someone's house without providing due process of law is a serious civil rights violation. I'm hoping their is a lawyer out there who will see that as a case worth taking on.
* What about the ACLU? A number of folks have recommended the ACLU. I tried contacting the ACLU three or four years ago about judicial corruption, long before my house was threatened, and I never received a reply. A number of people around the country have told me they tried to get help from the ACLU in dealing with corrupt judges and got nothing. So I'm not high on the ACLU. I might try them one more time, but I'm not holding my breath.
* What about the press? There is some activity on that front, but I can't go into details at the moment. An Alabama journalist actually has shown some interest, but I'm not counting on anything there. If anyone shines a bright spotlight on this, I think it will have to come from outside the state.
* What about Congress? I'm definitely going to contact members of the House Judiciary Committee. If folks connected to Alice Martin are behind this, as I suspect, then it's a matter of federal interest. Either way, I believe federal crimes have been committed in this effort to defraud me out of my house. I intend to contact Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) and Steve Cohen (D-TN), who have shown particular interest in the Don Siegelman and Paul Minor cases, the subjects of numerous posts here at Legal Schnauzer.
* What about a fund to collect the money and pay off the judgment? A number of people have suggested this, and believe me, my wife and I appreciate it. But I don't think there is a need to go that route. And as I stated earlier, these folks aren't interested in money. It's about the blog, and I have no intention of giving up Legal Schnauzer.
* What's next? Without going into too many details, I know the next legal step I need to take--and it doesn't require a lawyer. That should put a stop to this nuttiness, but seeing as how we're talking about Republican judges in Alabama, it probably will only delay things a while. Even if they auction off my house, there appear to be steps that can be taken to get it back. And it appears that a period of time must pass before anyone can actually lay claim to my rights to my own house. There's also the matter of my wife, who is joint owner of the house, and our mortgage company, which certainly has an interest.
* Just how far will these nutjobs go? That's a good question, and I don't know the answer. My wife and I have discussed whether or not we need to be prepared to defend ourselves physically. Are sheriff's deputies going to break into our house and try to throw me, or both of us, out? Are we going to come home some evening to find our house blockaded by sheriff's deputies, so we can't get in it? Are Shelby County authorities willing to put someone's life at risk in order to carry out their little scheme? I've dealt with these folks for about eight years now, and I wouldn't put anything past them. It has occurred to me that they might throw me in jail for some trumped-up charge (contempt of court?). They did it to Don Siegelman; no reason they wouldn't try it with me. I can only say that my wife and I are asking ourselves some serious questions and considering some serious steps to defend ourselves.
Reporters Larisa Alexandrova and Lindsay Beyerstein give us an up-close view of Karl's compound and significant insight into the kind of dirty work he might be up to there.
They particularly reference the house's proximity to Alabama and draw ties to Rove's longstanding, and ongoing, involvement with our state's politics.
What is Rove up to Rosemary Beach? One critic says Rove probably sees himself as a "freelance Dr. Evil." It must be financially lucrative, the critic says, to not be tied anymore to the Bushies or any particular candidate. What fun that must be for Turd Blossom.
"Have darkness, will travel," the critic says.
But that isn't stopping the jack booted thugs from pushing forward. We had a message on our home phone the other night from Deputy Bubba Caldell, informing us that our house was about to be sold and asking if we had "worked things out" with our criminally inclined neighbor (Mike McGarity) and his ethically challenged lawyer (Bill Swatek).
I wanted to say, "Work out what, Dude?"
There is nothing to work out. The "judgment" against me of $1,525 was obtained by methods that run contrary to this document we call the U.S. Constitution. Legally speaking, the judgment is worth no more than a used hot-dog wrapper--probably less. Under the law, Mike McGarity is not entitled to one dime from me, and his corrupt lawyer knows it. But Bill Swatek and his judicial cronies are uncomfortable with the painful truths I'm writing on this blog, so they are trying to use their bogus judgment to shut me up.
Here's a lesson I learned as a child: If you don't want the snake to bite you, don't poke it with a stick.
Bill Swatek and his gang evidently never learned that lesson. Also, they misidentified their prey. They thought I was a cute little bunny rabbit that they could abuse relentlessly without getting hurt. Well, I like to think I'm a fairly warm and fuzzy guy most of the time. But like many of you, I can turn into a rattlesnake if I'm poked often enough and hard enough. And I can turn into a rattlesnake real quick if you poke at the people and things that matter most to me--my wife, my pets, my home.
Here's the thing I've learned about bullies: They never think you are going to punch them back. That's stupid, I know, but if they were smart, they wouldn't be bullies.
Bill Swatek and his judicial buddies never dreamed I would suspect I was being cheated. And they didn't suspect I would go to my local law library and conduct the research necessary to prove I was being cheated. Then they never dreamed I would be able to figure out that my own lawyers were cheating me and covering up for the corrupt judges. They never dreamed I'd have the cojones to fire my lawyers and represent myself.
And most of all, I'm sure it never occurred to them that I would use the power of a blog to expose them to the world--and that my blog would attract the attention of folks like Scott Horton at Harper's, Larisa Alexandrovna at Raw Story, and Rep. Steve Cohen in the U.S. Congress.
So Swatek & Co. want to shut me up. And they are using their usual tactics--they lie and cheat.
How? I've noted the two documents I've received from the Shelby County Sheriff's Office threatening to seize my property. The first, a writ of execution, listed both of our cars and our house as property to be seized to satisfy a "judgment." The second, a notice of levy, said our house would be sold at auction to satisfy the judgment.
But here's the thing: According to Rule 69 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP), both of these documents must be accompanied by what is called a "Notice of Right to Claim Exemptions."
This is ARCP form 92, which evidently is not available on the Web, so I can't show it to you. But I've read it, and it's a brief, to-the-point document. In its 4-5 paragraphs, it advises recipients three times to contact a lawyer if they have questions about their rights to claim certain property exempt from execution.
Let me repeat: This document that they had to send me tells people three times to contact a lawyer.
I think I'm beginning to figure out why they didn't include this document. If I had contacted a lawyer, one with at least three brain cells, he or she would have told me, "Are these people nuts? They can't auction off your house to satisfy a debt of $1,525!"
But I've got news for Swatek & Company. I didn't need a lawyer to tell me that; I figured it out myself. And I will spell out the applicable law for Legal Schnauzer readers.
So what do we learn from this?
* The evidence is mounting that these threats to seize my house are actually about shutting down this blog. Even a lawyer as bad as Bill Swatek knows he can't legally have my house seized to satisfy a debt of $1,525--even if the debt was legitimate, which it isn't.
* Am I home free? Of course not. Just because the law says Shelby County officials cannot sell my house, doesn't mean they won't do it--or try to do it. Heck, under the law, the lawsuit against me had to be dismissed (summary judgment) in summer of 2001. But from summer 2001 to summer 2004, corrupt judges Mike Joiner and Dan Reeves let it move forward, repeatedly violating the law and committing federal crimes in the process.
This is an arrogant bunch, particularly when they know they are protected by the corrupt Bush Justice Department. But with the Bush Reign of Error thankfully winding down, will Alabama's corrupt GOP judges be quite so arrogant?
We're about to find out.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The healing of our justice department is likely to take years. But perhaps some positive momentum has started.
Writers in both the "new" and "old" media have thoughts on where we are headed:
* Glynn Wilson at Locust Fork News says he does not look for Siegelman to see the interior of a prison cell again. He also has classic quotes from whistleblower Jill Simpson about the tasteless remarks by some GOP leaders regarding the Siegelman release.
* Adam Nossiter of The New York Times notes the vague nature of the 11th Circuit's order and has thoughts from national experts on justice issues. (As expected, the 11th Circuit lets trial judge Mark Fuller off easy--for now.)
* Tommy Stevenson, of the Tuscaloosa News, has a splendid post that asks this important question: Why, after holding numerous state posts over a long political career, did Don Siegelman suddenly become corrupt as governor? Hmmm, wouldn't have anything to do with Karl Rove's rise to power on George W. Bush's coattails would it? Also, Stevenson notes the sour grapes dished up by state GOP head Mike Hubbard.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
In fact, they are at work in my own back yard--literally.
I was perusing the latest issue of the Shelby County Reporter the other day, when my eyes zoned in on this classified ad.
I usually approach the classifieds with a detached air, only mildly interested. But my brain quickly became attached when I spotted this legal notice:
By virtue of Writ of Execution issued out of District Court of Shelby County, Alabama, and to me directed whereby I am commanded to make the amount of a certain judgment recently obtained against Roger Shuler in favor of Mike McGarity out of the goods, chattels, lands and tenements of the said Roger Shuler, I have levied on the following property, to wit:Lot 4 block 15 Broken Bow South book 11 page 82.Therefore, according to said command, I shall expose for sale at public auction, all the right, title and interest of the above named Roger Shuler to the above described property, on the 7th day of April, 2008, at 12:00 noon, on the front steps of the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana, Alabama. Dated at Columbiana this 29th day of February, 2008. CHRIS CURRY Sheriff of Shelby County, Alabama. Shelby County Reporter. March 19, 26 nd April 2, 2008
"Hey," I thought, "that's my house!"
I felt like Lloyd Bridges in Airplane. "Looks like I picked a bad day to give up sniffing glue."
But there it was in bold print. The GOPers who run Alabama in the Age of Rove are serious about selling off my house at auction. Never mind that the judgment found against me was reached through unlawful and unconstitutional means. Never mind that the writ of execution and notice of levy leading up to this "sheriff's sale" were unlawfully issued and are thus invalid. Never mind that my rights under that thing we call the U.S. Constitution have been battered like one of Mike Tyson's early foes. These jokers actually plan to steal my house.
Under the Code of Alabama, a sheriff's sale must be advertised three times in a general-circulation newspaper prior to the big day. So this was ad number one.
And I like the quaint "old west" touches to the notice. My house is going to be sold at "high noon" on the "courthouse steps." Gosh, I'm going to be expecting tumbleweeds to be blowing down the street. Maybe Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty will come out of the saloon across the street to save the day!
My wife and I have been trying to put out legal brush fires for about eight years now, thanks to the corrupt GOPers who run both our county and our state. This conflagration is a little more unsettling than the others.
How are we going to handle it? Well, our thinking caps are on. And we're open to suggestions.
The 11th Circuit required trial judge Mark Fuller to justify in writing his decision for denying Siegelman bond pending appeal. We showed here that Fuller did not even come close to meeting his burden under the law. The facts are simple: By the trial judge's own words, Don Siegelman must be freed pending appeal. But he is looking at probably another 11 months in prison while the 11th Circuit does nothing about Fuller's remarkably weak memorandum opinion.
Here's a question: Why did the 11th Circuit ask Fuller to write the opinion if they weren't going to act on it?
Turns out the 11th Circuit was going to act all along--the justices were just taking their sweet time. Action finally came today when the court issued a four-page ruling releasing Siegelman from federal prison pending appeal.
The announcement set off much rejoicing among Siegelman supporters and many Democrats and progressives. But the news should have been welcomed by people of all political stripes. Whether you believe Siegelman was innocent or guilty, whether you think his prosecution was honest or tainted by politics, this much is clear: Under the law, he never should have been imprisoned while his appeal was in progress. That Siegelman spent the past nine months in federal prison is a disgrace to our justice system. The rules that allow a federal district judge to take such action need to be examined.
Word of Siegelman's release was not the only good news for folks who care about justice. Earlier in the day, a story broke that the House Judiciary Committee asked the Justice Department to temporarily release Siegelman, allowing him to testify before Congress in early May. Turns out a temporary release will not be necessary. But the prospect of Siegelman testifying under oath before Congress has got to be tightening some conservative jockey shorts this evening.
So what does all of this mean? Well, here are a few Schnauzer thoughts as we near the end of a most eventful day in the history of American justice:
* I haven't seen the 11th Circuit's four-page order, but my guess is that it will let trial judge Mark Fuller off easy. But that should not keep the public, and hopefully the press, from asking serious questions about Fuller's fitness for the bench. As we noted here in a January 5 post, Fuller's memorandum opinion on Siegelman's imprisonment clearly showed that the "emperor has no clothes." Fuller exposed himself as a glorified con man who, after raising suspicions about his conduct, was desperately trying to cover his posterior. If I, without the first day of law school, could see what he was doing, I can only wonder about the honest impressions of folks who have formal legal training. Today's news should be a major step toward an investigation of U.S. Judge Mark Fuller--an inquiry that, if it is serious, should lead to his removal from the bench. And let's hope investigators look closely for criminal activity. My guess is it won't be hard to find.
* Citizens must remember that Don Siegelman was only one of at least four political prisoners in the Age of Rove. The three others--attorney Paul Minor and former Mississippi judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield--remain in federal prison for crimes they did not commit. How do we know they didn't commit the crimes? Because we spent 25-plus posts proving it, and our "Mississippi Churning" series can be reviewed here. In terms of political prosecution, the Minor case is every bit as bad as the Siegelman case. Let's hope the nation and Congress turn their attention to the Minor defendants, who by law must be freed pending appeal.
* Siegelman's release is a testament to the power of alternative media. Without the work of blogger/journalists like Scott Horton of Harper's, Glynn Wilson of Locust Fork News, and Larisa Alexandrovna of at-Largely/Raw Story/Huffington Post/Hustler, Siegelman would have little hope of being released any time soon. Without the work of Pam Miles and her e-mail listees, Siegelman would have remained in prison for the foreseeable future. It's impossible to overstate the impact of CBS and its 60 Minutes story on the Siegelman case. But that "old media" story would not have happened without the work of folks working in the "new media."
* Siegelman's release is just one step in what will be an arduous journey toward restoring a badly broken justice system in this country--a system that is broken at both the federal and the state level. In fact, I would propose that problems in our state courts are far worse than those in the federal system--and that's a scary thought.
* If our justice system is going to be repaired, it will take committed, firm-minded Democrats and whatever honest, objective Republicans are out there. I believe such Republicans--people like Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana--do exist. But the Republican Party in general has become like the Britney Spears of politics. The party needs to go into rehab, probably for eight to 12 years at least, to cleanse itself of some debilitating demons. That means Democrats must act like adults. It means Democrats must not, at any point, become arrogant. And it means that Democrats, using all legal and honorable means necessary, must win the 2008 presidential election. The Republican Party, in its current state, cannot be trusted with power. And our country cannot afford four or eight years of John McCain.
* With the economy in recession, the Middle East in a mess, and huge ice chunks breaking off of Antarctica, we've got lots of problems. But whoever becomes the Democratic nominee for president must move justice near the top of the heap for issues to be addressed. Our state and federal justice systems are infested with corrupt judges and prosecutors--and I feel certain they aren't all Republicans. Democrats need to act like the Orkin man, shining flashlights into dark corners and putting out roach motels to catch all the creepy-crawlies lurking about. If a few Democrats get caught in the boxes, good. Get 'em out. It's up to Democrats to act with maturity and objectivity. God knows Republicans aren't up to that task at the moment.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
What has certain GOPers in Alabama so revved up that they are threatening to unlawfully seize and auction off my house in a thinly disguised attempt to shut down this blog?
If there is one thing I've learned through my legal ordeal, it is this: It's hard to think along with corrupt people. I suspect that's because a pretty high percentage of corrupt folks are sociopaths. (Regular readers know that I enjoy an occasional stab at dimestore psychology, so here we go again.)
While I certainly count myself among the "great unwashed," the flawed and sinful, I'm not sure I've figured out how to think like a sociopath. (And I would just as soon keep it that way.) But let's take a shot at trying to figure out why Alabama GOPers are suddenly so interested in shutting down our humble blog.
Presidential Politics and the Legal Schnauzer
We're running the risk of getting way too big for our britches by insinuating that our humble blog has anything to do with the 2008 presidential election. But we're trying to think like corrupt people. So follow me for a moment.
I noted in a previous post that the attempt to seize my house seems tied to certain topics I was writing about. Is it also tied to national political events?
Let's consider that for a moment. I think corrupt Alabama Republicans have been pretty secure in their belief that, somehow, the GOP would maintain its grip on the White House in 2008, allowing them to remain free from scrutiny by the U.S. Justice Department. My guess is they were convinced that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee, and she would bring baggage to the table that they could use to their electoral advantage. And I would guess they figured that the GOP would come up with a nominee who could get the Religious Right and ultra-conservatives excited.
But what has happened? Barack Obama has taken the lead over Clinton in the Democratic race, and it appears that he won't be such an inviting target to attack. And the GOP nominee is John McCain, who raises little enthusiasm among religious conservatives and even less from right-wing mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.
Has it occurred to corrupt Alabama GOPers that John McCain, 71 years old and without great support inside his own party, might be toast against a youthful, charismatic opponent such as Barack Obama? Has that influenced their thinking on my case--and perhaps numerous other cases in Alabama that could draw the attention of a Democratic U.S. attorney?
Is that why they are trying to threaten me into submission?
Again, let's consider our timeline:
February 5, 2008--John McCain wins big on Super Tuesday and becomes the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
February 8, 2008--My wife and I receive a notice of levy from Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry, stating that our house will be sold at auction to satisfy an alleged "judgment" in the amount of $1,525.
March 4, 2008--McCain wins Ohio, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Texas to clinch the GOP nomination.
March 18, 2008--A legal notice appears in the Shelby County Reporter, stating that our house will be exposed for sale at auction. Such notice is required by Alabama law--so these folks are serious.
I see an interesting pattern here. The better John McCain's presidential chances become, the more serious Alabama GOPers become about seizing and selling my house.
But that's not the only pattern I see. Let's consider one more.
60 Minutes and Legal Schnauzer
It has been widely reported that Alabama and national Republicans made quite an effort to silence the 60 Minutes report on the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. The Bush White House and U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) reportedly applied serious pressure to CBS.
My guess is that corrupt Alabama Republicans were convinced this pressure campaign would work.
Keep this in mind about many GOPers, particularly the white, male, Southern variety: They are an arrogant bunch. Their party has been ascendant in the South since 1964 and been dominant since 1980. That kind of electoral success will make you complacent and comfy. I suspect Alabama Republicans were convinced the Siegelman story would never see the light of day. They were wrong about that.
Did that affect their thinking on the corrupt activities that run rampant in Alabama state courts? Again, let's consider the timeline, at least in my case:
February 24, 2008--60 Minutes airs its story on Don Siegelman prosecution.
February 29, 2008--My wife and I receive notice of a Sheriff's Sale, telling us our house will be auctioned off at noon, April 7, on the Shelby County Courthouse steps.
Is this a coincidence? Maybe.
But I'm wondering if corrupt Alabama Republicans are considering the possibility that the U.S. might have a real attorney general in charge of the Justice Department, come early 2009. What if someone took a close look at the federal crimes that have been committed in Alabama state courts during George W. Bush's reign of error?
I smile when I think these thoughts. But I temper them with several doses of reality:
* Never underestimate the ability of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Dems have plenty of chances to screw this up.
* Never underestimate the ability of Republicans to steal elections.
* Never underestimate the ability of white, middle-class Americans to allow their race-based fears to overcome their economic interests and their better judgment, resulting in votes for the GOP.
* Even if Obama or Clinton claims the White House, never assume that a Democratic attorney general would have the guts or the support needed to go after the criminals who have turned our justice system into a sewer.
We receive word today that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued deadlines for briefs in the appeal of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.
The bottom line: Oral arguments are not likely to be heard until late 2008, at the earliest. And God only knows when a ruling might come.
Siegelman and Scrushy already have served nine months in federal prison, and it looks like they are facing a minimum of another 11 months. That's at least 20 months in prison for crimes that they almost certainly did not commit.
Heck of a justice system, isn't it?
Here's an even more galling point to ponder: The 11th Circuit required trial judge Mark Fuller to justify in writing his decision for denying Siegelman bond pending appeal. We showed here that Fuller did not even come close to meeting his burden under the law. The facts are simple: By the trial judge's own words, Don Siegelman must be freed pending appeal. But he is looking at probably another 11 months in prison while the 11th Circuit does nothing about Fuller's remarkably weak memorandum opinion.
Here's a question: Why did the 11th Circuit ask Fuller to write the opinion if they weren't going to act on it?
What message is the 11th Circuit sending? Better to wrongfully keep Siegelman in prison for at least 11 more months than to embarrass a federal judge.
Folsom finally gets his due
Sure was nice of Republican Gov. Bob Riley to have Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom at a press conference yesterday about a bill to raise taxes on companies that pump natural gas from offshore in Alabama.
It was particularly nice since Folsom, a Democrat, came up with the idea--one which Riley has blatantly stolen for several days.
"This is bipartisan," Folsom said. "We feel like we're here proposing the right thing and what's in the best interest of the people of Alabama."
Said Riley: "What we are not willing to have happen is that we give this natural gas away."
Of course, "Slick Riley" was perfectly willing to not say a peep when the Alabama Supreme Court let ExxonMobil get away with $3.6 billion worth of fraud. Evidently no mention of that at the press event.
Just what we need: Another Roy Moore
Alabama still is trying to live down the guffaws drawn from around the country by former Chief Justice Roy Moore and his Ten Commandments monument.
Now we have another state judge who doesn't seem to get the minor notion of separating church and state. This time it's Covington County Circuit Judge M. Ashley McKathan, who told some 100 people in his courtroom to gather in a prayer circle.
This is not the first time McKathan has tried to mix his religion with his role as a public official.
Here is the thing I've never understood about the Roy Moores and Ashley McKathans of the world: No one is forcing them to be a judge. They know up front that they can't mix their religion and their public position, but they do it anyway. They certainly are free to wear their religion on their sleeves, but not on the robes they wear as public officials. If religion was that important to them, why didn't they go to seminary instead of law school?
And the same thought comes to mind about the corrupt judges I've encountered at every turn. Hey, gang, no one is forcing you to be a judge. If you can't learn the law and apply it correctly, do something else.
Here's a thought about judges and lawyers: Why would someone who has no respect for the law go into the legal profession? The field is filled with some of the most lawless people you will ever meet--many of them wearing robes and going by the title "Your Honor."
A reader asks if I could provide a link to the entire opinion, including Cobb's dissent. The answer is yes, indeed.
The opinion is available here, and I strongly encourage folks to read it. Be prepared: This is not the kind of stuff you take to the beach to read. But it's worth the effort to get through all 125 pages.
If you don't want to wade through the whole thing, be sure to read Cobb's dissent, which starts on page 100. Some things to look for:
* Cobb points out that the concurring opinion fails to follow some of the court's most basic precedents.
* Cobb points out that the majority conveniently ignores evidence that supports a finding of fraud.
* Cobb displays cojones of impressive proportions. It's nice to know at least one Democrat in Alabama has a pair.
If you really want to get into some heavy-duty reading on the ExxonMobil case, check out the Web site of the Mobile firm Cunningham & Bounds. The firm led the effort to get justice for the State of Alabama, and their Oil and Gas Litigation page is filled with interesting stuff.
One of my favorites is the jury verdict form. You can read it here. Note all of the zeroes on the final figure.
Another favorite is this story by Cathy Donelson from Business Alabama. It provides fascinating background that I have not seen elsewhere.
Particularly interesting is this section about Robert Macrory, the man who wrote the natural-gas lease that ExxonMobil so blatantly abused:
Robert Macrory, the DCNR attorney who developed the lease, is the former executive director of the Alabama Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute funded by ExxonMobil among others in the oil and gas industry.
At the time he was asked to craft a lease for Alabama offshore gas tracts in 1979, Macrory who later served as assistant commissioner of the Alabama Conservation Department, from 1995 to 1998-was the department's chief legal counsel.
His assignment was to develop a lease favorable to the state that would bring in the best return for the state's non-renewable offshore gas. "Most industry leases were just put on Farmer Brown's table," says Macrory, currently DCNR's deputy attorney general.
"All other forms-and those the subject of lawsuit after lawsuit across the country were lease forms prepared by the oil and gas industry to place the value at the wellhead where it is first severed from the earth," he says. "And each company had its own way of computing the value of gas at the wellhead."
After gathering leases from the federal government and from several states across the country, Macrory began reading gas and oil treatise and ran across a suggested model lease form first published in the "Nebraska Law Review,"
Macrory says he was impressed by the publisher's comments saying the lease treated the oil and gas company and the landowner fairly and equitably, basing royalty on gross proceeds.
He says the lease was recommended by an eminent University of Oklahoma oil and gas law professor who had written many books on the subject. "It had a provision that focused on gross receipts at the price received, disallowing all deductions," Macrory says.
Hmmm, "disallowing all deductions." Bet ExxonMobil didn't like that language, even though it signed the lease. So the company came up with fraudulent ways to get around it. And the Alabama Supreme Court let them get away with it.
Because of that, Alabamians are roughly $3.6 billion poorer. But hey, we've got a "conservative" court.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
We've already noted that the threats seem to be tied to my blog posts about U.S. Attorney Alice Martin in the Northern District of Alabama and the Paul Minor prosecution in Mississippi.
But I suspect my reports about the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling in the ExxonMobil case also could be a factor. I first wrote about the case here, in a post titled "ExxonMobil 1, Alabama 0."
I'm hardly alone in writing about the ExxonMobil ruling, which overturned almost all of a $3.6 billion judgment against the oil giant and for the State of Alabama. Scott Horton, of Harper's, wrote an excellent piece about the case here. Even the mainstream press pulled its collective head out of the sand long enough to focus some attention on the decision.
But I probably have gone farther than most in stating my intentions to show why the Supreme Court ruling was unlawful, not just unfortunate. Here is one of several posts where I have said that I intend to show exactly how the ruling was unlawful.
With so much happening in the Siegelman case, and my own legal situation, I have put off the planned series on the ExxonMobil ruling. But it is still on the drawing board.
I should note this: It doesn't take a legal guru to figure out what the eight Republican justices did in ramrodding the ExxonMobil ruling. Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, the lone Democrat on the court and the only dissenting vote on the ExxonMobile opinion, has already laid it out. You just have to read her dissent. In fact, Cobb all but calls her Republican colleagues crooks.
So when I get around to writing about the ExxonMobil ruling, I won't be doing any pathbreaking reporting. I'll just be shining light on Cobb's scathing dissent. And that's something Alabama GOPers would rather stay out of the spotlight.
Cobb's dissent is readily available on the Web. I just happen to be nosy enough to actually read the whole thing and write about it--hopefully in a way that regular Alabamians can understand.
This should show with stark clarity that regular citizens are not well served by our GOP-controlled courts. More importantly, it will show that criminals control our highest court. The ExxonMobil ruling is about as blatant an example of honest services mail fraud that one could imagine.
The honest services mail fraud statute (18 U.S. Code 1346) is largely responsible for former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman being in prison. It is largely responsible for Mississippi attorney Paul Minor and former state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield being in prison.
We have shown that the Minor defendants, without question, are innocent of the mail fraud (and the bribery) charges against them. I have not seen the transcript of the Siegelman case, so I can't come to any absolute conclusions. But the evidence strongly points to his innocence on the mail fraud charge--along with the bribery and obstruction of justice charges.
So we have four Democrats in prison for crimes they almost certainly did not commit. And the clearly guilty GOP justices on the Alabama Supreme Court? They remain cloaked in their black robes, with nary a glance of suspicion from the Bush Justice Department. That's what's called selective prosecution. And it's alive and well in Karl Rove's Alabama.
Could Republicans on our highest court really be crooks? If you read Sue Bell Cobb's dissent, as I have, you will come to this conclusion: Yes.
Goodness knows that is a message that Republicans don't want getting out there. Is it enough for them to try to shut me up by threatening to unlawfully seize my house? Wouldn't surprise me a bit.
Martin spotlights the efforts McCain took in the U.S. Senate to cover up Riley's ties to disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And what did McCain receive for the "Get Out of Jail Free" card he extended to Riley? Well, he got a hearty endorsement from the guv. Can we say quid pro quo?
Martin certainly can. And he says much more:
Riley has steadfastly denied that he has ever taken any gambling contributions, however, it is documented that (Michael) Scanlon funneled nearly three-quarters of a million to his campaign for governor in 2002 through the Republican Governor's Association and other political action committees. Scanlon's income was derived primarily from the scam he and Abramoff, along with with former National Christian Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed, were running against the Indian people.
In the late 1990s when he was in Congress Riley signed a fund raising letter for a nonprofit group closely tied to Abramoff's clients. The letter, written on behalf of the U.S. Family Network, announced a petition drive to block the Atmore-based Poarch Band of Creek Indians from building a casino in Alabama. That was potentially significant to Abramoff's tribal clients in Mississippi and Louisiana that already had casinos and did not want more competition.
Riley clearly had close ties to Abramoff and Scanlon, relationships that McCain helped cover up, but will Alabamians care the next time they vote in state or national elections?
The new revelation of the governor's familiarity with Abramoff and the instructions given him by these two jailbirds, ought to cause some curiosity in the big time Alabama media, but I doubt it. Nonetheless, the governor owes an answer to those citizens who are curious. According to sworn statements the gambling interests in Mississippi spent $13 million to elect Riley governor. That's a lot of dough. If Riley didn't get any, there must have been a lot lost somewhere along the way. McCain's huge lost e-mail favor didn't come without a quid pro quo and he got it last week with a resounding endorsement from our governor. The only question left is who arranged that deal?
I don't know who arranged that deal. But it's a safe bet that somewhere in the McCain/Riley Two Step you will find the footprints of Dax Swatek. He served as Riley's campaign manager in 2006 and was senior advisor in Alabama for McCain until the campaign ran into funding problems.
Dax Swatek's father, Pelham-based attorney William E. Swatek, just happens to be the attorney who filed a bogus lawsuit against me that led to the blog you are now reading. In fact, not long after this blog started, we posted about the curious connections both Dax Swatek and Bob Riley have had to "pro family" organizations with ties to . . . Jack Abramoff. Hmmm.
My friend Robby Scott Hill at Novationeering posts that he recently received a rather sternly worded letter from a Riley Administration staffer, advising Hill that he was violating Alabama state law. What was Hill's grave misdeed?
According to O.J. Goodwyn, assistant attorney general and author of the letter, Hill had violated Alabama Code 41-13-6 by placing a document on his Web site that revealed the Social Security numbers of employees of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
"To avoid further action by this office," Goodwyn writes, "you should immediately redact or otherwise remove the Social Security numbers from any document that is available for public inspection."
There's only one problem with Goodwyn's warning: He doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.
You can check out Section 41-13-6 here:
Section 41-13-6: “Use of Social Security numbers on documents available for public inspection.
Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, a state department, licensing or regulatory board, agency, or commission is prohibited from placing or otherwise revealing the Social Security number of a person, including, but not limited to, full- or part-time employees thereof, on any document that is available for public inspection including, but not limited to, state personnel evaluation forms and any other forms related thereto unless otherwise required by law, without the express consent of the person with the number, or the consent of that person’s parent, custodian, legal guardian, or legal representative. The foregoing prohibition shall not apply when a federal or state agency makes a request for or releases a Social Security number for a legitimate government purpose, or pursuant to a federal or state statute, regulation, or federally funded program or pursuant to an administrative or judicial subpoena or order. Nothing in this section is intended to create or establish a new cause of action for damages in any court. Nothing in this section shall be construed as a waiver of sovereign or qualified immunity. This section shall not be applicable to a document originating with any court or taxing authority, any document that when filed by law constitutes a consensual or nonconsensual lien or security lien or security interest, or any record of judgment, conviction, eviction, or bankruptcy. If express consent to reveal a Social Security number has not been obtained, a state department or agency shall redact, remove, cover, or otherwise excise the Social Security number of any person from any document that is available for public inspection so that the remaining portion of the document.
It's quite obvious from reading the first sentence that this statute deals only with state agencies.
As Hill puts it:
Check out this silly misapplication of Alabama Code Section 41-13-6 which applies only to state agencies. Therefore, the State of Alabama lacks statutory authority to regulate my conduct in this regard, that is unless they were willing to rehire me. Ha!
What law school did Mr. Goodwyn graduate from? Is it the same place that passed out degrees to the corrupt Republicans who currently pack our courts? I'd say O.J. Goodwyn is about as dangerous around the law as another O.J. we are all familiar with.
Hill has been on the receiving end of a phenomenon I've experienced many times. I call it "Surely He Can't Read Simple English Sentences" Syndrome. It evidently afflicts large numbers of white, male GOPers, particularly those who live in the South (although I bet the condition can be found in other regions).
Maybe Hill and I can contact the National Institutes of Health and apply for a government grant to study this peculiar ailment. We both are becoming experts on the subject.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Here's perhaps a better way to phrase it: Are there close connections between Republicans in Mississippi and Republicans in Alabama? The answer to that is a resounding yes.
Could they join hands to influence justice in the Minor case, the Don Siegelman case, even the Legal Schnauzer case? Let's see what the evidence tell us:
* Alice Martin has deep roots in Mississippi and the GOP. She is from the Magnolia State and received her law degree from the University of Mississippi. She recently refused to prosecute Mississippi lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, the brother-in-law of former U.S. Senator Trent Lott (R-MS). A federal judge had recommended that Scruggs be prosecuted for violating a court order, and Martin refused to do it. Scott Horton, of Harper's, wrote about the case here.
Bob Martin, of the Montgomery Independent, wrote a recent column with some interesting background information about Alice Martin. Martin's professional bio can be read here.
* Alabama Governor Bob Riley has well-reported ties to the Mississippi GOP. In fact, it has been reported that Riley used major financial support from the Mississippi Choctaw Indians to win the Alabama governor's office. And these funds were funneled through confessed felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, a former Riley aide. Scott Horton, of Harper's, has a superb account of Bob Riley's many Mississippi connections here.
* Horton's piece mentions a name that is central to our Legal Schnauzer case. That is Dax Swatek, who was Riley's campaign manager in 2006 and whose father (William E. Swatek) filed the bogus lawsuit that led to my legal woes--and this blog. Dax Swatek grew up in Alabama and currently is based in Montgomery. But guess where he earned his law degree? The Mississippi College School of Law. Guess he wasn't smart enough to get into an Alabama law school.
So the Alabama/Mississippi/GOP hits just keep on comin'. And the evidence suggests that they are playing a role in the current threats to unlawfully seize my house.
I suspect one other factor might be at play. We'll touch on that next.
Well, I don't think Bill Clinton has anything on Bob Riley, Alabama's Republican governor. Just call him "Slick Riley."
Actually, Riley's not all that slick. In a battle of brains, Bill Clinton would blow him away like one of those No. 16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. But thanks to a lapdog Alabama press, Bob Riley gets away with all kinds of not-so-slick maneuvers.
We brought one to our readers attention the other day. Riley actually is now trying to take political advantage of the Alabama Supreme Court's bogus ruling to overturn most of a $3.6 billion jury verdict against ExxonMobil and for the State of Alabama.
That's quite a feat considering that the Republican judges who ramrodded the ExxonMobil ruling are bought by the same corporate interests who bought Gov. Riley. Even worse, Riley didn't even attempt to have the case reheard in state court, and he didn't try to make political hay until the 90-day window for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court had passed. Now that nothing can be done about the fraudulent ruling, Riley's up in arms about ExxonMobil's actions.
That's like opening the bank for the robbers to get in and then shouting vengeance in the streets of Dodge City as the bad guys ride away with the townfolks' money. Pretty slick.
Here's something else that's slick. Riley doesn't lift a finger to correct the $3.6 billion screw job the Alabama Supreme Court administered to state citizens, but by golly, he wants to make sure teachers don't serve in the Alabama Legislature--especially since most of them are Democrats. Turns out Alabama is one of 20 states where there is no law that restricts lawmakers from holding other state or local government jobs. Wonder how many of those other 19 states have had school teacher/legislators arrested for federal crimes. My guess? Zero.
And as pointed out by Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, teachers aren't the only ones with potential conflicts. The same conflicts could occur for bankers, car dealers, lawyers, you name it. Of course, a lot of those folks probably would be Republicans, so that doesn't concern Gov. Riley.
Hubbert correctly points out that the solution would be to have a full-time legislature. But Alabamians have shown no indication they want to go that route, and God knows they don't want to pay to go that route.
Here's a question: If the idea of teacher/legislators is fine in 19 states, why is it a problem--even a possible federal crime--in Alabama?
In our previous post on Riley, we wondered how many Alabamians would buy his deceptive act without batting an eye. Well, the editorial staff of the Huntsville Times evidently bought it, saying Riley is courageous for suggesting that Alabama alter the way it taxes natural-gas exploration.
Courageous? For stealing Jim Folsom's idea?
Courageous? For saying nothing while Republican judges rape our coffers and then bemoaning the state of Alabama's finances?
Good grief. Sometimes I think this state is hopeless.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
The central Shelby County figures in my legal case are Pelham attorney William E. Swatek (who has an almost 30-year record of unethical activities in the legal profession) and corrupt circuit judges J. Michael Joiner and G. Dan Reeves.
Evidence, however, suggests that efforts by "jack booted thugs" to steal my house are being driven by figures beyond Shelby County. Evidence also suggests that this effort has nothing to do with a desire to take our house or our cars--or otherwise satisfy an alleged "judgment" in the amount of $1,525. This clearly is about the blog you are now reading.
Let's look at what the evidence tells us:
* I started this blog in June 2007, and my first reference, by name, to corrupt Republican judges in Shelby County came on July 9, 2007. You can read the post here. The posts makes references to several potentially sensitive topics among local GOPers--corrupt Pelham lawyer William E. Swatek and his ties to GOP judges; connections that Swatek and Joiner have to Briarwood Presbyterian Church and said church's curious connections to my legal case; and efforts from the outset by The Birmingham News to cover up the story, probably because Briarwood is the home church of longtime News publisher Victor Hanson II. It's quite clear that Joiner, Swatek, and the News have been aware of my blog for some time. But I'm not sure they even knew about it in summer 2007. Even if they did, I'm not sure it bothered them all that much. Joiner, for example, probably didn't like being called a criminal. But I've seen no evidence that he's all that upset about it. One, he knows he's a criminal, so I'm not breaking any news to him. And he knows the local legal and media establishment will protect him, so I'm not sure he, or Swatek, are terribly concerned about Legal Schnauzer.
* What about Alabama Governor Bob Riley? We've thrown daggers his way, almost from the outset of Legal Schnauzer. My first reference to Riley and his connections to my case--through his campaign manager Dax Swatek, who is William E. Swatek's son--came on June 12, 2007. You can read that post here. We've gone on to call Riley's ethics into question on numerous occasions, and we've noted that it appears Alabama's GOP-controlled state courts are protecting Bill Swatek because his son has worked for Riley. I have reason to believe that Riley and his inner circle are aware of Legal Schnauzer and probably are none too pleased with it. But are they behind threats to steal my house? The evidence suggests, to me, that they probably are not--or at least, I don't think they are the primary force.
So who is behind it? Let's follow the evidence trail a little further.
What if we follow the timeline between what was being written on this blog and when threats to seize my property began? Will that tell us who is behind the "jack booted thugs" who have been making our lives quite unpleasant?
I think it will:
* In late July of 2007, I had a most interesting e-mail exchange with Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. This came after I had sent her two lengthy "snail-mail" letters outlining criminal wrongdoing I had witnessed by multiple judges and at least one attorney in her district. Martin did not respond to my second letter, so after several months of waiting, I took a wild stab at e-mailing her. I didn't know what her e-mail address was, and to my knowledge, it isn't published anywhere on the Web. But I apparently guessed right because she responded. I identified myself by name and made reference to my letters and asked for an update about actions that had been taken regarding the information I had sent. As you will see shortly, Martin was quite evasive in answering my questions, and she clearly was not pleased that I wasn't readily accepting her responses.
* You also will notice that I did not inform her that I had a blog about my legal experiences. At the time, I didn't think the fact that I wrote a blog was relevant; I simply wanted to see that something was going to be done about the crimes I had witnessed. When I conducted some research based on what Martin had told me, I realized she was trying to blow me off. Worse than that, she was practicing selective prosecution, covering up clear crimes because the perpetrators were members in good standing of the Republican "home team." That's when I decided I had a story the public needed to know about. The question was: When to write about it?
* One of the goals for this blog has been to show that the wrongdoing I've experienced in Alabama state courts has connections to larger, national issues involving our U.S. Justice Department. So through fall 2007, Legal Schnauzer focused largely on honest-services mail fraud and how that issued weaved its way through three cases--the Don Siegelman prosecution in Alabama, the Paul Minor prosecution in Mississippi, and my own case in Alabama state courts. My research indicated that defendants in the Siegelman and Minor cases, all Democrats, were in federal prison for honest-services mail fraud that they did not commit. Meanwhile, judges and at least one attorney, all Republicans, clearly had committed honest-services mail fraud in my case. And they were not even being investigated.
* The failure of the Justice Department to investigate my case is a classic example of selective prosecution, the topic of an ongoing Congressional inquiry. And that is where Alice Martin enters the picture on our blog. It's also where my wife and I start receiving threats to unlawfully seize our property.
* Alice Martin was not the only character to enter the picture at about the time my wife and I started receiving threats regarding our property. The Paul Minor case in Mississippi also became a major topic on Legal Schnauzer. My first reference to the Minor case came on August 2, 2007, in a post titled "Another Republican Witch Hunt." You can read the post here, and to my knowledge, it is the first post on the Web about the Minor case and its connections to the Siegelman prosecution. The Minor case received national attention when Scott Horton, of Harper's, first wrote about it on Sept. 18, 2007, and I had a series of posts on Sept. 19, 2007. My posts on the Minor case from September 2007 can be read here.
* Why is September 2007 important? Follow on me on this timeline:
August 2, 2007--I first write about the Paul Minor case in Mississippi.
August 22, 2007--I first write about my e-mail exchange with Alice Martin.
September 18, 2007--Scott Horton, of Harper's, first writes about the Minor case.
September 19, 2007--I write a series of posts about the Minor case.
September 21, 2007--My wife and I receive a writ of execution, listing our house and two cars as property to be seized to satisfy a "judgment" against me in the amount of $1,525. The writ is not served as required by Alabama law.
November 12, 2007--I make a second, more detailed, reference to my e-mail exchange with Alice Martin.
November 20, 2007--I write the 25th installment in the "Mississippi Churning" series about the Minor case.
December 20, 2007--Shelby County deputy Bubba Caldwell (or Caldell, I'm not sure which) leaves a message on my wife's cell phone, saying that he is about to come and get one of our cars.
February 8, 2008--My wife and I receive a notice of levy, saying Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry will sell our house to satisfy an alleged "judgment" of $1,525. Like the earlier writ of execution, the notice of levy is not served as required by Alabama law.
February 29, 2008--My wife and I receive notice from Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry that our house will be auctioned off on the courthouse steps at noon on April 7, 2008. Like almost everything else we receive from county authorities, this is not done lawfully.
Do you see a pattern here? I sure do. Not long after I started writing about an e-mail exchange I had with Alice Martin, one that shows her pattern of selective prosecution, I started receiving threats about my property being seized. And those threats increase when I started writing in a detailed way about the Paul Minor case in Mississippi.
Any connections between Alice Martin, Mississippi, and my legal woes? We'll examine that question next.
How did Gundlach draw the right wing's ire? He wrote an academic paper showing that the vote totals in Alabama's 2002 gubernatorial election almost certainly were electronically manipulated. That manipulation, of course, gave Republican Bob Riley a paper-thin, come-from-behind win over Democrat Don Siegelman.
We posted about Gundlach's paper here. Writing that post gave me a taste for the kind of venom the Auburn academic inspires from certain GOPers. As you can see, I had quite a back-and-forth with one commenter who raised numerous objections about Gundlach's work. When I pointed out that Gundlach's paper addressed each one of the reader's contentions, that didn't seem to compute. It finally became clear that this reader, and others, wanted to trash Gundlach, but they didn't actually want to read his paper, which is readily available on the Web.
The GOPers can get pretty creative when it comes to attacking Gundlach. The other day, a reader going by the name of "Plumb Bob" sent me a comment that did a pretty good job of making me think he really knew about computers and the issues raised in Gundlach's paper. The comment is the last one on the post at the link above, and here it is in its entirety:
I know this is way after the fact, but I don't need to read Prof. Gundlach's paper to know where he went wrong. It's this statement:
"Gundlach says computers can't have glitches without human intervention."
Gundlach is a complete idiot. I don't think I've ever heard anything sillier from a Professor.
The description of the creation of the summary sheet indicates a cartridge making some sort of electrical interface with some sort of readout equipment, probably an electronic interface with an LEDreadout. I can think of half a dozen places in a system like that that an error could occur, and I'm pretty sure we've all experienced them ourselves:
- There could be dirt in the contacts between the cartridge and reader, resulting in a false reading.
- There could be a fault in the LED, causing a false number or a scrambled number on the display.
- There could be bad lighting, with the result that the person reading the interface saw something wrong.
- There could be a dog-tired operator.
- There could be a weak electrical supply, resulting in a completely erroneous display.
That's just off the top of my head.
The just insanely silly statement, "computers can't have glitches without human intervention," is the dead giveaway that Prof. Gundlach engaged in a process that was going to find evidence of fraud whether it occurred or not. Such analyses should be avoided like the plague.
The anonymous commenters are correct: the reports from those who examined the actual process are more to be trusted than the statistical analysis of a clearly biased interpreter.
I asked Prof. Gundlach if he would like to respond to "Plumb Bob," and he said yes. Here is his reply:
The commenter is misquoting me. I said computers don't produce different results without human intervention. When you get the kind of glitch the poster is describing, the programs fail; (they do) not create new numbers. And, in the Baldwin County case, three different results were produced. . . . For what it is worth, (my study) has been gone over by a team of statisticians from MIT, and they thought it was the strongest evidence of an electronically stolen election they had seen.
But there are several things wrong with that line of thinking. For one, Hillary Clinton supporters are saying, "Hey, Obama doesn't even have the Democratic nomination wrapped up yet." And they have a point.
But an even more important point comes from Mark Crispin Miller at News From Underground: Never underestimate Republicans' ability to steal an election.
Miller issued his warning after noting that even sharp commentators such as Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow seemed to think that Republicans were giving Obama's speech a sincere "two thumbs up." But Dems had best be wary:
The Bush regime has taken many steps already to prevent Obama (or Clinton) from prevailing, and they're taking more such steps right now. In fact, it's been their main concern, throughout this decade, to subvert the democratic system, in order to prolong their power (and save themselves from prosecution) until Kingdom Come. All they need is for the race to end up seeming sort of close, and some convincing-sounding rationales to help "explain" their "victory." As we've seen before, it's not so hard to do; and they will try to do it again (once again), regardless of Obama's merits or national support.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Whether it involves lawyers, judges, law-enforcement personnel, court clerks, you name it, I've repeatedly seen the law treated as if it were yesterday's garbage.
So perhaps I should not be surprised that people in positions of authority evidently have no qualms about making unlawful threats to seize my home--all for the apparent purpose of shutting down this blog.
I'm not a lawyer, and Lord knows I'm not a prosecutor. But I've spent way more time than the average layperson trying to educate myself about the law. And I think I can make some educated guesses about possible legal ramifications certain folks could face for making unlawful threats to seize my home--or anyone's home, for that matter.
Here are a few civil and criminal wrongs that seem to be in play here:
* Civil rights violations, part I--The writ of execution I received was not served according to Alabama law. Shelby County Clerk Mary Harris and Sheriff Chris Curry should know that a writ of execution and a notice of levy must be served with a notice of rights to claim exemptions. This was not done, and it almost certainly was not done intentionally. That is a violation of procedural due process guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
* Civil rights violations, part II--It is pretty much impossible to sue a judge, no matter how corrupt he is, as long as he acts within his judicial capacity. But when a judge acts beyond his capacity as a judge, he is fair game. For example, a judge certainly can be sued for employment discrimination or sexual harassment against members of his staff. Are Shelby County Circuit Judges J. Michael Joiner and G. Dan Reeves involved in these unlawful threats to seize my house? It's hard for me to believe that it could take place without their knowledge. And if they are involved, my research indicates that a judge acts beyond his judicial capacity if he is involved in the collection of a judgment. If I'm correct about that, Joiner and Reeves could face liability for civil rights violations.
* Abuse of process--Abuse of process is a relatively broad tort, similar to malicious prosecution. One of the main differences between the two is that abuse of process can be filed as a counterclaim. Malicious prosecution requires that a previous proceeding end favorably for the plaintiff, so it cannot be filed as a counterclaim. Anything involving garnishment, attachment, execution, levy, etc. is a classic use of legal "process." And the threats to seize my property are a classic abuse of such process. Any number of folks could be liable for this--starting with Attorney Bill Swatek, who I assume applied for the writ of execution, and County Clerk Mary Harris, who unlawfully issued it, and Sheriff Chris Curry who is unlawfully following through with it.
* Honest-services wire fraud--Shelby County deputies have made more than a dozen phone calls to my wife's cell phone about the unlawful writ of execution that we received. This represents use of U.S. wires in furtherance of a fraudulent scheme, designed to wrongfully deprive me of property. I'm not sure that the deputies who made the calls could be held accountable because they might believe the writ is lawful. But whoever put them up to making his repeated phone calls should be at risk for a federal wire-fraud charge. Of course, nothing is going to happen to these folks as long as Alice Martin is U.S. Attorney here. But God willing, we'll have a Democrat in the White House come January 2009. If a we wind up with a real U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama, a number of folks in this case might want to get legal representation.
* Criminal and Civil Trespass--On at least three occasions, Shelby County deputies have come on our property to leave unlawful documents for us. Law-enforcement personnel normally have a license to enter property when they are acting in their professional capacity. But these were not lawful documents that should have been part of the deputies official business. Again, I don't know that the deputies themselves could be held accountable for this. But I believe whoever instructed them to repeatedly enter or property for no official reason should be at risk of both criminal and civil trespassing charges.
* Defamation--State law requires that a sheriff's sale of real property be advertised for three consecutive weeks prior to the sale. I've seen no indication that such a notice has been advertised yet. But if it is, anyone who caused the advertisement to be placed, should face liability for defamation. The notice would indicate that I owe a judgment that I have refused to pay, causing my home to be put up for auction. This is not true. This also would indicate that I have failed to show that my home is exempt from levy. Again, this is not true because I have been given no notice of right to exemption, as required by law. So far, the notice of sale has been "published" only to me and my wife, and that does not constitute publication required by defamation law. But if the notice is posted or advertised where any third party can read it, those responsible for such posting should be liable for defamation.
* Conspiracy--If two or more parties worked together to carry out any of the criminal acts noted above, that should lead to a conspiracy charge.
* First Amendment--If it can be shown that the threats to seize property were designed to scare me into shutting down this blog, that would raise constitutional issues regarding my right to free speech.
But Riley's sleight of hand is easy to spot for those who are paying attention. And it leaves us with this question: Just how dumb does the governor think we Alabama citizens are?
Pretty dumb, apparently. But I would say Riley himself is the real dope.
We learned this week that Riley has the audacity to pretend that he is concerned about Alabama's system of taxing natural gas that is pumped offshore by ExxonMobil and other corporate titans. In fact, Riley has proposed a plan that would overhaul the state's severance tax and impose a tax rate on the amount of gas produced. Riley said a volume tax would be easier to compute and administer than the value tax that is currently used.
What is so audacious about this?
* Alabama Lt. Governor Jim Folsom Jr. already has proposed a rewrite of Alabama's tax on oil and natural-gas production--and he did it more than two months ago. Folsom noted that Alabama's current tax is a percentage of the value of the gas after it has been processed, and he proposed a volume-based tax levied when the natural gas comes out of the ground. It's possible there are some differences between Folsom's plan and Riley's plan. But they sound pretty much identical from here, and it appears Riley flat out stole Folsom's idea.
* In announcing his plan, Folsom noted the devastating impact of the decision last year by the Alabama Supreme Court to overturn almost all of a $3.6 billion jury award against ExxonMobil and for the State of Alabama. Riley makes no mention of the ExxonMobil case. Perhaps that's because Riley is bought and paid for by the same corporate types who have bought and paid for the Republicans on the Alabama Supreme Court, the ones who cheated the state out of billions of badly needed dollars.
* Shortly after the ExxonMobil ruling, Riley announced that the state would not even try to have the case reheard. I'm not an expert on appellate law, but I have a feeling the case could have been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But we have no word from the Riley camp that they intend to seek such review. And it's too late to do that anyway. The Alabama Supreme Court ruling was issued in late October, so the 90-day window for seeking certiorari review from the U.S. Supreme Court has passed. Oh well, it was only $3.6 billion.
* Again, I'm not an expert on appellate law. I do know that the U.S. Supreme Court rarely reviews cases just because a state's high court has screwed it up. (That's why our elections for those state high-court races are so important, folks.) A case usually has to involve bigger issues than that to draw the attention of the U.S. Supremes. But the amount of money involved, the international scope of ExxonMobil, the national importance of natural-gas exploration, issues raised over interpretation of a contract with a multinational corporation . . . all of that might make the case of interest to the U.S. Supremes. But the Riley camp didn't even try. Now they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court about Riley's right to fill vacant county commission seats. But fighting for $3.6 billion for the citizens of Alabama? Nah.
* What is Riley really up to with his plan on natural-gas taxes? He's trying to provide cover for the Republicans on the Alabama Supreme Court who authored the ExxonMobil screw job. Unlike Folsom, who essentially says contracts need to be revised because the state high court won't protect citizens from corporate fraud, Riley says the contracts themselves were at fault. If you study the ExxonMobil case, you find that Alabama's contracts already had been strengthened to put the state in a better position than it was previously. That's why ExxonMobil didn't like them and decided to get around them by committing fraud. The current contracts appear to have been written with the idea that ExxonMobil was somewhat honorable and would not try to get around the contracts by committing fraud. The oil giant has proven that it is not at all honorable and will indeed commit fraud, so Folsom says even the hint of a loophole must be closed. Riley, on the other hand, points a finger only at the contracts, never raising the issue of fraud.
It's amusing to hear Riley harrumph about contracts that he says allow ExxonMobil and other companies to use Alabama's natural resources without paying a fair price. But the contracts don't allow that unless the company is trying to commit fraud, which the Alabama Supreme Court lets them get away with it.
Get a load of Riley's quotes:
"It's unconscionable. It is something that absolutely ends up fleecing the people of Alabama." (No, Bob, the Alabama Supreme Court is the one who allowed ExxonMobil to fleece the people of Alabama.)
"As long as I'm governor, we will not allow any company, Exxon or any other international company, to come into this state and take our natural resources free of charge." (You've already seen Exxon get away with fraud, and you chose to do nothing about it.)
"This is one of the most egregious acts that I've seen since I've been governor." (Oh, really? Where were you when the $3.6 billion screw job was going down?)
Here's a question: How many Alabamians will buy Riley's act of deception without batting an eye?