Reading today about travel restrictions placed on former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman made this schnauzer want to scratch his beard and shake his head.
It reminded me of so many events I've seen in my own story of dealing with a justice system controlled by Republicans.
First, we learned that Siegelman has been classified a "special offender" for travel purposes and is no longer able to travel without receiving prior approval. Then a Justice Department official says, "Oh no, nothing has changed. Siegelman's under the same travel restrictions that applied when he was awaiting sentencing." Then Siegelman fired back with the following statement:
In this afternoon's Associated Press story, a representative of the federal probation office in Montgomery, Alabama, stated in effect that my travel conditions had not changed form what they were before sentencing.
Here's what happened. On April 29 I was informed by my parole officer that he had received instructions from his superior in Montgomery that I was to be considered a "Special Offender" for travel purposes. I am now required to have permission to travel to any place out side of the Northern and Middle Districts of Alabama. Also, that additional information will be required of me before I travel. For example, I will now have to fill out and file a formal written detailed request to travel with my PO two weeks in advance of travel even if I want to travel to see my lawyers who live in Mobile, Alabama. That request, then has to be forwarded to the federal district into which I seek to travel. Some districts, require an additional 30 day notice before they will even consider my request to come there.
This is contrary to what I had previously been required to do, and, seems to be in contradiction of the 11th Circuit's order for release on bond pending appeal. (See attached order of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.)
Probation restrictions from conviction to incarceration were that I could travel anywhere within the state of Alabama without requesting permission and traveling outside the state did not require that I request travel any specific number of days in advance.
* Mobile trips to see attorneys, and numerous trips outside of the districts but within Alabama, were permitted without any oral or written requests;
* A family vacation to the Virgin Island trip;
* Washington DC trip;
* A trip to California were all handled by an oral or email request to my PO who then emailed the Judge and he responded to the PO.
There is a vast difference in the conditions for travel, as of yesterday, and the conditions that I was under before sentencing and for over one month after I was released on March 28th by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
1. I am now classified as a"Special Offender", placed in the category of a" Potential Terrorist" or member of "The Mafia" requiring additional scrutiny by the district into which I seek to travel. The definition of "Special Offender " that I was given reads as follows: "Individuals identified or associated with . . . organized crime such as the Mafia . . . persons identified as potential terrorists, kidnappers, members of a supremacy group . . . offenders of high notoriety, or cases of similar nature." The only reason my case is of "high notoriety" is because of misconduct of the government which the U.S. Congress and the Inspector General of the DOJ are now investigating. It is not my behavior that gave this case notoriety; it was that of the government.
2. I have been given a new form that I have not been required to fill out previously, that I must now fill out and give to my PO at least two weeks in advance for any trip, including requirements of criminal registration and reporting in the district into which I seek to travel.
3. I must seek written permission weeks in advance even to travel into the Southern District of Alabama if I want to see my lawyers.
4. If I am seeking out of state travel, in addition to the two weeks notice I must give my PO, some districts require an additional 30 days notice, however, there is no way for me to know what the rules are in any particular district before I make my request to my PO.
This all sounds so familiar. Let's examine some of the themes we've addressed in our Legal Schnauzer tale, themes that also seem to be playing out in the Siegelman case. In a justice system dominated by GOPers . . .
* If you don't happily accept their abuse, they will try to make you pay--In my case, I start blogging about corrupt Republican judges in Alabama, and next thing I know, the Shelby County Sheriff's Department is threatening to unlawfully seize my house. While I was quiet about my experiences for three-plus years, all was well. But within a few months of starting this blog, by golly, someone wanted to "collect" on a bogus judgment against me (in the grand sum of $1,525)--and they wanted to do it by seizing my house. Same thing seems to be happening with Siegelman. As his national media appearances piled up, someone decided suddenly that he needed travel restrictions. The folks at Left in Alabama put it nicely.
* They'll make you think you are Eddie Murphy in Trading Places--You remember the scene where the old dudes explain to Murphy what goes into a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich? (Think I'm channeling Chris Farley here.) That's evidently the way GOP justice folks see normal people--they think we are all stupid. In my case, they never dreamed I could figure out that a properly supported motion for summary judgment has to be granted when the other party does not respond. It's "black letter" law, and common sense would tell you that is the case, but I guess the GOPers never dreamed a member of the "great unwashed" could actually look it up. And that's only one of dozens of such examples I could cite. I've lost track of how many times my wife and I have received some ridiculous motion or ruling in the mail and looked at each other saying, "How dumb do they think we are?" In fact, we just had several new examples, and I'll be writing about those soon. It's heartening, in a macabre way, to know that a former governor gets the same treatment. These people don't think Don Siegelman knows what his own probation conditions were?
* Lying, or at least highly creative spinning, is second nature--Of the voluminous lies I've been told, perhaps my favorite came from Shelby County Circuit Judge Dan Reeves. It's well settled Alabama law that when a plaintiff is claiming malicious prosecution, any of his prior wrongs (criminal convictions etc.) are admissible as evidence. It's common sense. By definition, such a plaintiff is claiming his reputation was stained by being prosecuted for a crime. The defendant is entitled to show that the plaintiff's reputation already sucked because he had been convicted of crimes umpteen times before. But Reeves would not allow evidence that my troublesome neighbor Mike McGarity had been convicted of at least eight crimes previously, including one involving violence and one of a sexual nature. I printed out the case law and handed it to Reeves, with the pertinent stuff underlined. "Nice research," he said, and excluded the evidence. Jurors, I'm sure, couldn't figure out why I was having problems with such a nice man as Mike McGarity--a veritable suburban soccer dad (but with a far more colorful past than most soccer dads). Reeves didn't want the jury to stray from an outcome that probably was preordained, thanks to creative jury striking, iffy jury instructions, and evidentiary decisions like this one. Siegelman is facing the same thing. Who are we to believe: this justice official quoted by Associated Press or a former governor who ought to know a thing or two about his own probation conditions?
* Incompetence is second nature to these folks--I'm aware of a recent case where a defendant in small-claims court showed up to contest a lawsuit that had been brought against her. The plaintiff, the party who brought the lawsuit, didn't bother to show. The judge dismissed the case against the defendant, finding for her on the merits (duh!). But when she got the order in the mail, it said the case was dismissed on a motion by the plaintiff. Turns out the plaintiff had filed a motion to dismiss the case without prejudice (meaning they could bring it again later) five days after the case was over--and the judge granted it! The defendant had to write a motion asking that the court pull its head out of its you-know-what and get the order correct. After a couple of followup phone calls, the court seemingly got it right. The probation officer's statements about the Siegelman case sound so familiar. "Well, some of our officers do this and others don't, blah, blah, blah." Sweet Jehovah, have I heard that kind of stuff before?
* Law? What law?--These people have utter disdain for the actual law. They would rather make it up as they go along. We already have presented examples of this at Legal Schnauzer, and many more are coming. But what about the Siegelman case? His order for release pending appeal couldn't be more clear: "Siegelman shall be released on the same terms and conditions as those governing his release pending sentencing."