Monday, June 30, 2008

Will Democrats Take Advantage of ExxonMobil Ruling?

Democrats received a colossal gift last November when Republicans on the Alabama Supreme Court ramrodded an 8-1 decision that overturned most of a $3.6 billion judgment in favor of the State of Alabama and against oil giant ExxonMobil.

Will Democrats be able to take advantage of this gift at election time? That is the focus of an intriguing story by Bob Lowry of The Huntsville Times.

The November 2008 election will include only one state supreme court race--Republican Greg Shaw against Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur.

Paseur seems like an attractive candidate, but I've yet to see evidence that she wants to make the ExxonMobil ruling a major campaign issue. If she doesn't, she almost certainly will lose--and she will deserve to lose if she doesn't have the spine to tell the truth about the corrupt Republicans who let ExxonMobil get away with a $3.6 billion highway robbery.

The ExxonMobil ruling is about as grotesque an example of judicial malfeasance as one can imagine. In fact, we have stated numerous times here at Legal Schnauzer that the eight Republicans who voted to overturn the jury verdict (with Chief Justice and lone Democrat Sue Bell Cobb casting the only dissent) almost certainly committed federal crimes in letting their oil buddies off the hook.

We have illustrated the heroic actions of Sue Bell Cobb in standing up for justice in the ExxonMobil case. If you really want to understand the ExxonMobil screw job, check out her dissent here. It begins on page 100 of the 125-page ruling.

Former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman put the ExxonMobil ruling in perspective when he released a statement about the case yesterday:

The Exxon Case is a very good issue for the Supreme Court race in 2008. It spotlights the lopsided imbalance on the State Supreme Court.

The Court has been stacked, election after election, with large corporate-backed candidates. Today, the people have only one voice on the Court, Sue Bell Cobb. The people desperately need another voice, the voice of Debroah Passeur.

In 1996, Kenneth Ingram had a politically astute anti-corporate, populist offensive when he ran headlong into Karl Rove's slimy corporate funded campaign. That was the election where Rove used Republican Harold See and untruthful TV ads paid for by large corporate interests, as a weapon of mass political destruction.

Unfortunately for Democrats, Justice Ingram's strong populist anti corporate message was not the focus of Kenneth's TV ad campaign.

Siegelman seems to be saying that Paseur has a made-to-order campaign issue with which to bash Republicans about the head. And she needs to make hay of a populist, anti-corporate message in her TV ads. If she can use the ExxonMobil ruling to win her race, Democrats in future races should be able to follow suit.

But if Paseur is timid and chooses not to spotlight the ExxonMobil ruling, she will lose. And Alabama will remain in the clutches of corporate fat cats for the foreseeable future.

Will Roller-Coaster Death Spawn a Lawsuit?

We raised the following question yesterday in the wake of a fatal roller-coaster accident at Six Flags Over Georgia: Will the accident lead to a lawsuit even though the victim, 17-year-old Asia Leeshawn Ferguson IV, evidently used stunningly poor judgment that led to his death?

More information now is available about the case, and it becomes even more sad as you learn about the young man and his family. A few thoughts on a tragedy that should not have happened:

* The lawsuit question probably will remain open for a while. The victim's father, Asia Ferguson III, told the Associated Press: "We're not clear on what happened. All we know is that we don't blame anybody." In the Columbia, South Carolina, newspaper, however, the family's pastor said they intend to hire a private detective. When asked about the possibility of a lawsuit, the pastor said, "We just want to know the facts."

* Press reports indicate that the Fergusons are the kind of family most anyone would like to have as next-door neighbors. Asia Ferguson IV was described as "happy go lucky" and "a good kid." He sang tenor and played drums in the church choir. He liked to play pick-up basketball. He planned to join the National Guard and attend college. His father is a deacon at the church, and his mother is church secretary and assistant to an executive at an insurance company.

* The Fergusons lived in Springfield, South Carolina, and the largest local newspaper, the Orangeburg Times & Democrat, had this report.

* What would cause an otherwise bright 17-year-old boy to climb two fences and ignore multiple warning signs to enter an area that clearly was dangerous? Regular readers know that I engage in dime-store psychology from time to time. And I can't resist the urge to weigh in on the psychology behind this event. We live in what I call "The Age of Distraction." Almost everywhere you turn, people are babbling on cell phones, listing to iPods, checking on Blackberrys, multitasking, and so on. We seem to have forgotten that the world is a crowded place, and it can be dangerous--particularly when you aren't paying attention to what's going on around you. My guess is that Asia Ferguson IV had a cell phone, an iPod, or both with him at the time of his death. There is no indication that either device directly contributed to his death. But have we all become so attuned to the jingly, jangly devices all around us that they have clouded our judgment? Are we so tuned into to electronica that we have tuned out to potential dangers that can take our lives--or the lives of other innocent people?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Alabama's Right-Wing Press Will Never "Get" the Siegelman Case

The right-wing types who dominate Alabama's mainstream press evidently are incapable of understanding critical issues presented by the Don Siegelman prosecution and the evolving Bush Justice Department scandal.

The latest example comes from an editorial in today's Birmingham News about reports that the Justice Department used political criteria to decide who would get hired for prestigious honors and internship programs. An internal audit showed that outstanding applicants were culled simply because they had connections to progressive politicians or programs.

"Dumb," writes the News. "There's just no better word to describe the U.S. Justice Department's use of bogus political criteria to decide who would get hired to work in its offices."

Actually there is a word that better describes this activity. It's "corrupt."

This is the tip of a corrupt iceberg that only will become fully visible if Congress ever truly gets down to the task of fumigating the cesspool created by loyal Bushies at Justice.

Editorial writers at the News, however, cannot understand it. They hint that Siegelman is an opportunist when he uses the recent report to help validate his charges of political prosecution.

The News braintrust has the gall to write the following: "This is not the first time the Bush administration's own folly has bolstered Siegelman's wild claims of political prosecution."

Wild claims?

If the News' honchos pulled their heads out of their collective fannies long enough, they might try reading U.S. Judge Mark Fuller's pathetic memorandum opinion regarding Siegelman's imprisonment pending appeal. This document shows that even Fuller himself, the judge who ramrodded the Siegelman case, cannot justify the guilty verdict reached in the case.

Then the News' editorial gets even nuttier:

"As this newspaper has said, these dismissals (of nine U.S. attorneys) at the very least make it harder to flat-out dismiss Siegelman's claims. That's true even for those of us who believe he was justly prosecuted and convicted for selling a seat on a state board in exchange for a political contribution."

How sad that a major newspaper has to resort to saying it is among those who "believe" Siegelman was justly prosecuted. How about getting off your conservative duffs and doing some investigation? The Siegelman case is not about what anyone "believes;" it's about the rule of law.

A good place to start in understanding the law in the Siegelman case is this post from the White Collar Crime Prof blog. It provides important analysis of McCormick v. United States, which is central to the Siegelman appeal and shines light on this question: When can a campaign contribution become the basis for a prosecution on extortion, bribery, or mail fraud charges?

Is it possible that Alabama's right-wing press types will ever educate themselves about the facts and the law in the Siegelman case? The answer to that question is almost certainly "no." That's because anyone who is remotely objective and makes any attempt to grasp the facts and law surrounding the Siegelman case will conclude that the former governor was railroaded.

That conclusion would upset the closely held conservative world view of the News' honchos, so we won't hold our breath waiting for them to come to their senses.

We do know this: The fact that News editorial writers still are talking about what they "believe" regarding the Siegelman prosecution only illustrates how pathetic the paper's reporting on the case has been.

Herd Gets Thinned, Lawsuit to Follow

Today's news brings a classic "thinning-the-herd" story, and we suspect an outrageous lawsuit is sure to follow.

Here's the story: A 17-year-old boy decided it would be a good idea to scale two six-foot fences, and pass numerous signs saying the area was off limits and dangerous, in order to retrieve a hat he had lost while riding the Batman roller coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia near Atlanta. In the process of trying to retrieve the hat, the youth was decapitated when a roller coaster car struck him. The teen was identified as Asia Leeshawn Ferguson, of Springfield, South Carolina, who was at the park with his parents on a church trip.

Here is what should happen: Ferguson's parents, after having time to grieve and bury their son, should call a press conference and say something like this: "We are heartbroken at the tragic death of our son, but we want the public to know that no one associated with Six Flags Over Georgia was responsible for this accident. Asia knew better than to scale two fences and enter an area that clearly was marked as dangerous. For reasons we never will understand, he chose to ignore those warnings, and it cost him his life. We hope other parents will take this story and use it to help teach their children about the importance of respecting safety warnings. Our hope and prayer is that Asia's tragic mistake might help other young people to live long, healthy lives. We are deeply grateful to officials at Six Flags, and other members of the public, who assisted us on the day of Asia's death and have comforted us in this time of grief."

If I were head of Six Flags, and Ferguson's parents did this, I would quietly write them a generous check, as a way of saying thank you for taking responsibility and doing the right thing.

Here is what probably will happen: Sometime soon--probably within two months--a lawyer will file a lawsuit on behalf of Ferguson's family, claiming Six Flags and its personnel were negligent. The lawsuit will claim the fences were not high enough, there weren't enough fences, there weren't enough warning signs, etc. Facing the prospect of lengthy and expensive discovery, and fearing possible negative publicity, Six Flags and its insurers will cave in and pay the family tens of thousands--maybe hundreds of thousands--of dollars.

What a country.

This is the kind of case that makes trial lawyers look bad, and since trial lawyers tend to support the Democratic Party, it also can make the Democratic Party look bad. I certainly have no love for the corporate types who run Six Flags. But for the good of our country, I hope trial lawyers show some common sense and stay away from this case.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Y'all Politics Serves Up Some Rubbish

I generally try to avoid the right-wing blogosphere. There might be some thoughtful right-winger types out there, but they haven't come to my attention.

What did come to my attention recently was a blog called Y'all Politics, which apparently is based in Mississippi. Don't know much about Y'all Politics, but it seems to be the handiwork of a fellow named Alan Lange.

Based on a recent post about the Paul Minor case, Mr. Lange is one of those who does not let the facts get in the way of a good right-wing storyline.

Lange goes after Larisa Alexandrovna and her recent in-depth piece on the Minor case, which was published at Raw Story and Huffington Post.

This was the latest of several excellent long-form pieces that Alexandrovna has written about the Minor prosecution, which saw a successful trial attorney and Democratic financial supporter (Paul Minor) and two former state judges (Wes Teel and John Whitfield) wind up in federal prison for crimes they did not commit. Alexandrovna not only has provided valuable insight about the Minor case, but she has shown how it ties into the Don Siegelman prosecution in Alabama and the broader Bush Justice Department scandal, currently the subject of a Congressional investigation.

Alexandrovna is right on target with both her facts and her analysis. I know because I've invested a major chunk of time in researching and writing about the Minor case, which resulted in a series of roughly 25 posts we called "Mississippi Churning." Our Legal Schnauzer work on the Minor case can be viewed here.

Y'all Politics dismisses Alexandrovna's work as a "puff piece" that is "pro felon." Lange, or whoever the writer might be, provides no facts to back that up.

What does the writer provide for us? A link to the indictment in the Minor case, by golly. The message? If the government indicts you, you are guilty. What a very American concept?

And oh, the writer provides us with a scene in which Paul Minor evidently was intoxicated. We get no clue as to the source of this story. And we certainly get no indication as to why it is relevant. Are people convicted and sent to federal prison for being intoxicated at some point in their lives? If so, we really are going to need more federal prisons. That building binge should help pull us out of the Bush economic tailspin.

If Mr. Lange wrote this piece, his most charming sentence comes when he notes that Ms. Alexandrovna "ain't from around here." Nice to know that xenophobia is alive and well in the Deep South.

Mr. Lange reminds me of that old lawyer's tale: If the facts are in your favor, pound on the facts; if the law is in your favor, pound on the law; if neither one is in your favor, pound on the table.

Mr. Lange appears to be one heck of a table pounder.

The law is this: You cannot have a bribery or honest-services mail fraud conviction in the Minor case because the underlying state court cases were decided correctly. Minor's clients won those cases because the facts and the law were on their sides, and by law, that means the cases were not decided because of loan guarantees the judges received from Minor. (Such financial favors are legal under Mississippi law; I don't think they should be legal, but they are. And they are common practice in many states.)

The facts are these: U.S. Judge Henry Wingate, a Reagan appointee, intentionally gave the jury improper instructions, and those bogus instructions virtually ensured that the defendants would be found guilty--contrary to the actual law.

Ms. Alexandrova is providing critical insight on one portion of the evolving Bush Justice Department story, which someday is likely to be known as the worst scandal in our nation's history. Y'all Politics, in the meantime, apparently will keep its head firmly buried in the Mississippi Mud.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An Alabama Portrait of Sleaze in the Age of Rove, Part III

What kind of person is Bill Swatek? What kind of lawyer, an "officer of the court," is Bill Swatek?

Swatek's defense in his perjury trial was that he knew nothing about the hidden tape recorder that opposing lawyers discovered while they were trying to conduct a private meeting. Swatek said it was his client's idea to tape record the opposing lawyers. Do the facts support that contention? Here's a clip about just that question:

How does someone get off on a perjury charge when they have that kind of evidence against them? Hey, this was in Alabama state courts. They are corrupt in 2008, and it looks like something fishy was going on in 1981. Here is a summary:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Corrupt Bushie in Alabama, Part V

I was almost finished with U.S. Attorney Alice Martin. But she had touted her office's sterling financial operation in our previous installment, so I thought it was important to point out how she could make her financial picture look even better.

I should note that I made a mistake in the first paragraph of the following e-mail. I hinted that the first Siegelman case, in the Northern District of Alabama, involved honest-services mail fraud. But that was incorrect. That case involved charges of health-care fraud. Honest-services mail fraud did not come into play until the second Siegelman case, in the Middle District of Alabama under Leura Canary:


To: Alice Martin

From: Roger Shuler

Sent: July 29, 2007

Ms. Martin:
Your office attempted to prosecute Mr. Siegelman prior to the prosecution in the middle district. So surely you know what agencies investigated the mail fraud components of that case. Did it involve the U.S. Postal Inspection Service? I don't see how it could have since that agency is not authorized to investigate matters under U.S.Code 1346.

And by the way, are you telling me the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is going to determine if my allegations have merit? An agency that does not have authority to look into 1346 cases is going to determine the merit of a 1346 case?

I'm pleased to hear that your office is run on a financially solid basis. But I would be more pleased if you could explain to me why you forwarded this to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which according to its own Web site, is not the appropriate agency. Are you telling me the postal Web site is in error?

You will be pleased to know that, from a financial perspective, my case should be a windfall for you, the FBI, and the Department of Justice in general. I've already conducted all of the research, and collected all of the documents, that would be required to gain a conviction. You can ship about four lawyers and some 15-16 judges to federal prison and hit them all with hefty fines--at virtually no cost to you!

So as a taxpayer, that's exactly the case I want to see you pursue. It will make your financial record look even better. Based on my conversations with a number of honest lawyers (yes, there actually area few out there), the wrongdoing I've encountered is commonplace and widespread in your jurisdiction and the middle district. If you could forward this information to Mr. Franklin and Ms. Canary at the middle district, I would be most appreciative.

It might require some investigation to uncover all of the cases where average citizens have been cheated by unethical judges and lawyers. That would involve some expense on your part. But you get one or two corrupt judges squealing on the others, and the whole sleazy mess breaks wide open. And think of all those fines and prison terms! If I'm a prosecutor, I'm licking my chops.

On a financial level alone, this is a great opportunity for the USDOJ. I look forward to hearing soon from the FBI--the appropriate agency--so that you can fulfill your promise to send my information to the appropriate agency.

Roger Shuler


(To be continued . . . )

A Peak Behind the Curtain of Corruption

One small step toward revival of America's diseased justice system comes today with word that Bush loyalists established a five-year program to flood a prestigious hiring program with young conservatives.

The story, by reporter Carrie Johnson at the Washington Post, says the honors program had been under the control of senior career officials. But John Ashcroft, former attorney general under Bush, changed that system.

As a result, critics say, many highly qualified candidates were rejected because they had experience with left-leaning nonprofit organizations or had served under Democratic judges or lawmakers.

Could this story have ramifications in Alabama? The answer appears to be yes. The report by Inspector General Glenn Fine and Office of Professional Responsibility Chief H. Marshall Jarrett is the first in a series of investigations about the reach of political considerations in hiring and enforcement at the Bush Justice Department.

Alice Martin and Leura Canary, U.S. attorneys for the Northern and Middle Districts of Alabama, reportedly are on the list of prosecutors under investigation for launching politically driven cases.
Hopefully, Fine and Jarrett will soon be turning a critical gaze to the horribly warped justice apparatus in the Heart of Dixie.

We have been showing, in our series on Alice Martin, exactly how warped our justice apparatus truly is. We have another segment in our first-person reports coming up next.

One Less Partisan Hack in Alabama

Brett Blackledge of The Birmingham News, who along with the Mobile Press-Register's Eddie Curran gives new meaning to the term "partisan hack," is leaving our fine state for a gig with the Associated Press in Washington.

Glynn Wilson at Locust Fork News has an excellent take on Blackledge's departure, with a hopeful note that it might signal a change toward badly needed media reform in Alabama.

Wilson also takes a delightful jab at Editor Tom Scarritt's Sunday column in The News, which Wilson says specializes in "saying nothing about nothing."

Scarritt's most recent effort was even worse than usual. He actually had the audacity to prattle on about "watchdog journalism," which is like Weird Al Yankovic discussing Tchaikovsky.

Wilson also notes the latest in "the sky is falling" reports about the newspaper industry. Hard to believe that the very editors who have turned away from investigative reporting, seeking accountability from those in power, have to wonder why fewer and fewer people read their fish wrappers.

Can we say "clueless?"

Monday, June 23, 2008

An Alabama Portrait of Sleaze in the Age of Rove: Part II

Let's continue with our video travelogue of Bill Swatek's sleazy career in the legal profession. The biggest case against him came in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It resulted in him having his license suspended and being tried in criminal court for perjury.

Here's a clip about the actions that got Bill Swatek into some serious doo-doo:

Next we have a clip about the media attention Swatek's perjury prosecution received in 1981:

(To be continued . . . )

A Strange Column from Montgomery Advertiser

Aside from Greg Privett at WHNT in Huntsville and Tommy Stevenson at the Tuscaloosa News, Alabama's mainstream media generally have avoided covering the Bush Justice Department and its apparently political prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman.

You would think the Montgomery Advertiser would have been all over the story, considering that the action took place in Montgomery and many of the key players still reside in the capital city. But you would be wrong. The Advertiser's coverage would have to improve drastically to reach the level of timid.

But it has reached the level of bizarre, thanks to a recent column by Sebastian Kitchen. I don't know a lot about Kitchen. I believe he used to work for the Mobile Press-Register. It appears that he is a reporter in Montgomery, but his latest effort reads like an op-ed piece.

Kitchen's piece is strange because it only offers up a string of questions without attempting to provide any answers. And answers to some of the questions are readily available.

Glynn Wilson, of Locust Fork News, has a jolly good time at dismantling Kitchen's handiwork. And Wilson is more than happy to provide answers to some of Kitchen's questions.

I find myself being somewhat forgiving of Kitchen, mainly because it appears he is working under weak leadership at the Advertiser. When Wanda Lloyd, an African-American woman, came on board as editor four years ago, it was hailed as a step forward for diversity and news coverage. And Lloyd has an impressive resume.

But I've seen no sign that she is willing to stand up to the mostly white, good old boy power structure that runs Montgomery. Enormous corruption is taking place right under Lloyd's nose, and she has done nothing about it.

I have a hard time blaming Sebastian Kitchen for that.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Corrupt Bushie in Alabama, Part IV

In our previous installment, I challenged U.S. Attorney Alice Martin to explain why she sent my allegations of crimes under 18 U.S. Code 1346 (honest-services mail fraud) to an agency that does not have the jurisdiction to investigate such crimes.

Now, let's watch as Ms. Martin attempts a trick that scoundrels have been trying down through the ages. It's called "change the subject-fast!"


To: Roger Shuler

From: Alice Martin

Sent: July 27, 2007

Dear Mr Shuler:
As a taxpayer you will be pleased that we collect 4 times more than we cost taxpayers in an average year. Your complaint has been forwarded to the appropriate agency, which can and will enlist the FBI's assistance if there is merit to your allegations.

You may contact the Middle District of Alabama to inquire as to what agencies investigated the Siegelman matters.

Alice Martin


Notice several clever tactics Ms. Martin uses here:

* Since she has no valid answer to my main question--why did you send my complaint to the United States Postal Inspection Service?--she decides to tout her office's financial tidiness. (This must have been before she decided to go after Huntsville businessman Alex Latifi on bogus charges, a fiasco that is likely to cost taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars.)

* How about that second sentence? Ms. Martin flat out says she sent my complaint to the correct agency. That tells us Ms. Martin is either the most ignorant prosecutor in the history of the solar system or she is a liar of prodigious abilities. While Ms. Martin evidently is not the brightest star in the prosecutorial galaxy, I think even she knows the U.S. Postal Inspection Service cannot investigate a 1346 case. If I, without the first day of law school, could figure that out, you would think a U.S. attorney could figure it out, too. So that leads me to believe that Ms. Martin is a liar of wondrous talents. And that should be no surprise, since she clearly lied under oath (and got away with it) in an employment lawsuit involving former Assistant U.S. Attorney Deidra Brown Fleming.

* Finally, notice how Ms. Martin is in no hurry to answer the question about the Don Siegelman case. In fact, she decides to punt that one to the Middle District of Alabama, where Leura Canary resides. But we don't need to bother checking with Ms. Canary (as if she would tell the truth!) about whether the U.S. Postal Inspection Service was involved in the Siegelman case. A press release from the Department of Justice already has told us that the postal inspectors had nothing to do with investigating the Siegelman case. That's because, by law, they could not investigate possible violations of 18 U.S. Code 1346.

(To be continued . . . )

Friday, June 20, 2008

Progress in the Paul Minor Case?

The Paul Minor case has a special resonance here at Legal Schnauzer. And word comes today we have reached a landmark on the road to possible justice in a case that can only be described as gruesome.

Attorneys for Minor have filed an appeal in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. We will look at some of the key issues on appeal in a moment. But first, a word about why this case matters so much to us--and why it should matter to all Americans.

Our blog, which recently passed its first birthday, has focused primarily on three cases--two criminal prosecutions in federal court (the Minor case in Mississippi and the Don Siegelman case in Alabama) and one civil case in state court (my own legal travesty in Alabama).

The three cases might not seem to have much in common at first glance. But a common thread runs through them all: They all feature wrongdoing driven by people who are in, or have unusual connections to, the Bush Justice Department.

So what makes the Minor case special here in SchnauzerLand? Several things:

* Until I heard about the Minor case and began researching the issues involved in it, I did not fully understand how badly I had been cheated in my own case. And I did not begin to understand how badly Don Siegelman had been cheated in his case.

* Because of the Minor case, I became aware of, and developed a layman's understanding of, honest-services mail fraud. And that criminal charge is central to all three of our featured cases. In the Minor and Siegelman cases, the charge was improperly applied to help produce convictions that are not remotely grounded in law. In my case, real, honest-to-God honest-service mail fraud is present in copious amounts--and the Bush Justice Department ignores it because the wrongdoing involves "loyal Bushie" Republicans. That's what our justice system has come to over the past seven-plus years: Innocent people are convicted for political reasons and guilty people are not even investigated for political reasons. Praise be to Karl Rove.

* The Minor case has a personal element that illustrates the monstrous nature of some people connected to the Bush Justice Department. Paul Minor's wife is dying of cancer, but he has been held in federal prison pending appeal. Minor's codefendants, former Mississippi state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield, have significant health issues of their own or in their immediate families. And yet, they too are being held in federal prison pending appeal. Now I can hear some folks calling me a "bleeding heart" for suggesting that the Minor defendants should receive consideration because of family health matters. And that certainly is part of my argument. But when you study the transcript and the case law as I have, you see that these gentlemen are innocent--and never should have been prosecuted, much less imprisoned. That's what makes certain Bushies--prosecutor Dunn Lampton and Judge Henry Wingate, in this case--particularly monstrous.

* Don Siegelman has been released pending appeal, and that is a sign of hope for folks who care about justice. But the plight of the Minor defendants should remind us: The spirit of Josef Stalin still lives in George W. Bush's America. And to think that Dubya never would have come close to winning the White House without the "Christian" vote. Makes you wonder what's going on in our churches.

What about the Minor appeal itself? Joe Doss, an Episcopal Bishop and friend/supporter of Paul Minor and his codefendants, issued a press release that definitely is worth reading in its entirety--not only for the legal points it makes but for the moral outrage it expresses:

Free America's Political Prisoners
For Immediate Release
June 20, 2008
Contact: Bishop Joe Doss

Paul Minor Appeals Unjust Conviction
Minor seeks release on bond with wife's death imminent

Attorneys for Paul Minor have filed an appeal of his conviction with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The brief outlines the following issues that warrant reversal of Mr. Minor's conviction:

* The District Court committed reversible error when it did not properly instruct the jury on the legal requirements for a bribery conviction, thus permitting the jury to convict Mr. Minor for conduct that was neither charged in the indictment nor considered bribery under federal law.

* The District Court committed reversible error when it prevented Mr. Minor from presenting crucial, relevant evidence that would have rebutted the charges. Specifically, Mr. Minor--charged for attempting to bribe Judge Whitfield--was not allowed to show the jury that he did not file his more significant cases in Judge Whitfield's court.

* The District court committed reversible error by not dismissing bribery charges against Mr. Minor because the evidence did not meet threshold of the federal bribery statute and the jury was improperly instructed on this fact.

Statement of Bishop Joe Doss of Free America's Political Prisoners:

It should be abhorrent to every American citizen that a man is forced to remain in prison while--as his appeal brief so clearly shows--there are glaring questions surrounding how this case was investigated, prosecuted and tried.

Paul Minor carries the additional burden of knowing that his wife is dying of cancer and has been given only a short time to live. His unjust incarceration makes it very likely that he will never see her again. Paul's release on bond pending appeal is not only legally justified, but considering the imminent death of his wife Sylvia, it is mandated if this process is to salvage a scintilla of basic human decency.

It stands in direct contrast to everything that this country professes to stand for that Paul Minor has not been allowed to remain free on appeal while the prosecutor who brought the bogus charges against him is himself currently under investigation by the U.S. Congress and the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Department of Justice.

The fact that the prosecutor and his office are being investigated about the origins of this prosecution raises more than enough doubt about the conviction to warrant Paul Minor's immediate release pending a thorough hearing on the legality of the prosecution and the ultimate hearing of Mr. Minor's appeal before the fifth circuit court of appeals.

Are Republicans in Desperation Mode?

Bernard Weiner, co-editor of The Crisis Papers, has one of the most interesting takes on the 2008 presidential election that I've seen.

The Crisis Papers is an anthology of opinion and commentary from the progressive Web.

Weiner points to numerous signs that Republican Party leaders are in desperation mode:

Almost as if they have an uncontrollable death-wish, the Republicans remain locked into a self-destructive separation from the popular will. Either that or they simply are incapable of thinking straight after eight years of sensory-deprivation in the dark CheneyBush spin chamber.

The public in general has moved ahead of the politicians in so many areas: opposing the endless Iraq occupation, tolerant of same-sex relationships, eager to move beyond divisive race politics, desirous of effective regulation of food and product safety, even more supportive of Social Security and Medicare, open to major health-care reform, etc. Yet those in charge of the Republican Party continue to hitch their wagon to the old extremist shibboleths that play well mainly to the fundamentalist and Old South base, which by this time is barely 25% of the electorate.

Can Democrats take advantage of this? Weiner thinks so:

One could make the case that at least a good share of Barack Obama's popularity rests on the public's perception that he is trying to move America away from the extreme rhetoric practiced by both major parties in the past several years and back to a more rational, positive way of conducting politics in the 21st century so that something positive actually can be accomplished in Washington.

Democrats and others who wish to move beyond the extremism of the Bush GOP should be wary. Weiner notes that Karl Rove is more involved in the John McCain campaign than the publicly generally knows:

Rove's theory of how to ruin your opponent goes something like this: It's OK to tell the most outrageous lies about someone, even if those rumors can be countered by actual facts, because you're not after voters necessarily believing what you say. What you want to do is to confuse them over time -- so that eventually they might think where there's smoke, there might well be fire, that type of reasoning. It's propaganda chaff you're dispersing. Some of it will stick and be believed, some of it will simply be ignored, some of it will remain floating out there in peoples' minds. Since most voters don't pay attention all the time, the meme might actually influence what and how they believe and could pay off on Election Day.

Weiner notes just how extreme the right-wing pundit class has become:

Using such national leaders as Cheney, Bush and Rove as role-models (after all, they were able to lie and deceive America into an unnecessary war and occupation), it's not just lies and innuendo and rumor being peddled by the agitprop pundits of the HardRight. Sometimes the activity and speech of the GOP operatives crosses over the line into downright incitement of illegal acts, for which nobody ever is criminally charged, of course. For example, taking off from Ann Coulter's earlier incitements (she said that liberals are "traitors" who deserve to be shot, a Supreme Court justice should be poisoned, the New York Times building should be bombed with the reporters and editors inside it, etc.), two noted conservative pundits in recent weeks seemed to be suggesting that assassination of political opponents was a reasonable political option in the name of victory. Fox News' veteran reporter Liz Trotta recently said: "If it could," the U.S. should "take out" both Barrack Obama and Osama bin Laden. And radio talk-show host Michael Reagan (Ronald Reagan's son) said that an anti-war activist trying to influence U.S. military forces in Iraq should be tied to a post on a firing range and shot by the American troops. In a similar vein, Andy McCarthy at National Review said, in response to the Supreme Court ruling that Guantanamo detainees have the right to contest their imprisonment in civilian courts, the U.S. should round up all the detainees there and just slaughter them en masse.

Can we assume the 2008 presidential election will be honestly conducted? Don't count on it, says Weiner?

As everyone understands, there is so much riding on the November election, which, one would think from the early polls, should yield a major defeat for the Republicans. But this assumes that the November election is reasonably honest and that, despite the GOP's voter-suppression maneuvers, Democratic or third-party voters come out in such massive numbers that, seeing the overwhelmingly anti-GOP pre-vote polls and the post-election exit polls, vote-manipulators would not dare fiddle with the tabulations. But if that Democrat/third-party surge doesn't happen and McCain were, say, to take 45% of the actual vote, the mainstream-media spinners could hype the possibility of a GOP victory in key states and the Republican corporations that tabulate the votes with their secret software could surreptitiously make up the needed percentage points for victory. (For more on all this, see Mark Crispin Millers' new book, "Loser Take All: Election Fraud and The Subversion of Democracy," and Ernest Partridge's articles "Where's the Outrage?" and "According to Plan?").

Could this be driven by the fears of "loyal Bushies" about what life might be like in the post-Dubya era?

Would Bush & Co. be willing to try something fraudulent like that in November? Aside from the fact that the evidence suggests they already have in previous elections, imagine yourself facing possible criminal indictments and time in the federal slammer, standing in the war-crimes dock at The Hague, and losing all the riches and power you've built up over eight years -- you might be tempted, too.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

An Alabama Portrait of Sleaze in the Age of Rove, Part I

Perhaps the best known victim of the Bush Justice Department is former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, who was prosecuted on charges that would have to improve considerably to reach the level of "weak."

Siegelman has an unusual perspective on the "loyal Bushies" who have turned our justice system into a sewer. On the one hand, Siegelman is all too familiar with people like himself (Democrats, generally), who have been aggressively prosecuted on charges that are shaky at best and flat-out bogus at worst. This is what some call "selective prosecution."

On the other hand, Siegelman also is familiar with people unlike himself (Republicans of a certain "Bushie" stripe, generally) who have received a free pass for clear wrongdoing. This is what one might call "selective non-prosecution." It is part of what Siegelman calls an "umbrella of protection" that covers those with special ties to the Bush administration.

What kind of person is likely to wind up under the nice, big "umbrella of protection?" Well, I have become intimately familiar with one of them.

His name is William E. Swatek, an atttorney based in Pelham, Alabama. He is the fine chap who filed a fraudulent lawsuit against me some seven years ago, starting a legal nightmare that is still rolling along.

Why does Bill Swatek enjoy the GOP's "umbrella of protection?" It's because his son, Dax Swatek, is a Republican campaign consultant who has worked for Bill Canary, who has close ties to Karl Rove, who . . . well, you get the picture.

Bill Swatek certainly isn't protected because he's a fine and ethical fellow. In fact, I've made frequent references to his almost 30-year history of unethical behavior in the legal profession. Now, we're about to show you exactly what we've been talking about.

Since mere words don't do justice to Bill Swatek's "legacy of sleaze," we are going to turn to the video camera for assistance. First, we have an overview to get us rolling, focusing on steps Swatek has recently taken to essentially steal my house:

Next we have a clip that shows how Bill Swatek has cheated his own clients and how he mysteriously managed to beat a conviction for driving while intoxicated. In one case involving a former client, Swatek actually sued a dead man. (I'm not making this up, folks! I'm not nearly clever enough to come up with that story.)

(To be continued . . . )

A Corrupt Bushie in Alabama, Part III

By now, Alice Martin surely must have thought she was finished with me. In fact, she probably was thinking, "My conservative Lord, why didn't I go into insurance?"

But she had raised the Schnauzer's ire. And I was ready to hold her right-wing feet to the fire:


To: Alice Martin

From: Roger Shuler

Sent: July 27, 2007

Ms. Martin:
One final thing: In your Jan. 22 letter, you stated that if I sent a letter providing detailed allegations about wrongdoing I've witnessed, that you would make an appropriate referral to an investigative agency.

I think you are fully aware that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is not the appropriate agency for an investigation involving 18 U.S. Code 1346. The service's own Web site says as much.

As a taxpayer, I help fund your office. And I have a right to expect that you will live up to your duty as stated in your own letter. You told me you would refer my information to the appropriate investigative agency, and now you are refusing to do it.

Maybe you don't understand how serious this matter is. My wife and I are facing repeated calls from a collection law firm because we've struggled to pay our bills since the "public servants" mentioned in my letter essentially stole our discretionary funds and most of our life savings. Does that kind of thing matter to you?

This is clear fraud, and it clearly is not appropriate for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. And you stated that you would handle the referral to an appropriate investigative agency. I have the letter right here in my hand.

Are you going to live up to your word? And by the way, you didn't answer my question: Was the U.S. Postal Inspection Service involved in the Siegelman investigation? If not, why would you expect them to handle an investigation into my 1346 case?

Roger Shuler


How did Alice Martin react to my latest missive? The answer is coming up.

(To be continued . . . )

Blogger Sued for $25 million

A real-estate blogger in Miami, Florida, has been sued for $25 million by a condominium developer.

This appears to be the case of a struggling businessman, in a down real-estate market, trying to blame his problems on a blogger.

Lucas Lechuga, who worked for the Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell (EWM) real-estate firm, was sued by Tibor Hollo, who heads the Opera Tower development.

Lechuga published a blog, Miami Condo Investments, which said Hollo had gone bankrupt in the 1980s, the development company was delaying closings on the condo project, and the project was likely to have a "high default rate." The statement regarding Hollo's bankruptcy evidently was false, and the developer alleges that it is defamatory.

You would think that demanding a retraction might be a simple way to handle such a problem. But Hollo decided, "Why do that when I can file a $25-million lawsuit?"

Wonder if Hollo's approach has anything to do with the fact that EWM is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. Methinks someone smells deep pockets.

EWM, for its part, fired Lechuga and distanced itself from his comments.

You can check out Lechuga's post about the lawsuit here.

The blogging community has rallied around Lechuga, with one blogger noting that the lawsuit has brought Hollo far more negative publicity than the post ever did.

A CBS newscast about the case can be viewed here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bill Swatek: A Portrait of Alabama Sleaze in the Age of Rove

I, of all people, should not be surprised by any corrupt act committed by Alabama attorney William E. Swatek. But I must confess that even I was somewhat taken aback by Swatek's most recent gambit.

Bill Swatek is the greaseball lawyer who filed a bogus lawsuit against me some seven years ago, leading to all kinds of legal headaches and to the blog you are now reading.

Swatek has an almost 30-year history of unethical activities in the "practice" of law (much more on that coming up soon). But he is not just any corrupt lawyer. No, Bill Swatek practices a special kind of corruption--the kind that is covered by what former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman calls an "umbrella of protection" from the Bush Justice Department.

Why is Bill Swatek special? Because he has family ties that run right up to the doorstep of the Bush White House--and certainly to the inner workings of the Bush DOJ.

Those ties come courtesy of Swatek's son, Dax Swatek, a GOP "consultant" based in Montgomery, Alabama. Dax Swatek has served as campaign consultant for Governor Bob Riley (2006) and U.S. Attorney Alice Martin (2000) (when she ran for a seat on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals--and lost). But perhaps more importantly, Dax Swatek once worked for, and remains a close associate of, Alabama GOP operative Bill Canary.

That's the same Bill Canary who, thanks to Republican whistleblower Jill Simpson, was reported to have said on a conference phone call that "his girls" (Alice Martin and fellow U.S. attorney Leura Canary, Bill's wife) would "take care of" Don Siegelman. That's the same Bill Canary who, according to Simpson, already had the deal worked out with "Karl." That would be Karl Rove, who worked with Canary in the 1990s to turn Alabama state courts into a Republican playground. Rove, in fact, made his national reputation in Alabama before going on to become "Bush's Brain."

So the family tree of sleaze goes like this--Bill Swatek>Dax Swatek>Bill Canary>Karl Rove>George W. Bush.

And all along, you thought the case at the heart of this blog was about some Alabama goober (me) who didn't like the way he was treated in court. In reality, this is one Alabama goober who has come face to face with Justice-Department corruption in the Age of Rove. And I want to make sure Legal Schnauzer followers can read all about it.

So, what is Swatek's most recent gambit? It dates back to the "auction" of our house (actually, my portion of the house, which is co-owned by Mrs. Schnauzer). We reported on that auction, live and in color, and you can check out all the action here.

The normal byproduct of a legitimate sheriff's sale is a document called a sheriff's deed. But as we've reported earlier, nothing about this "sheriff's sale" was legitimate. How was it illegitimate? Let me count the ways:

* The underlying judgment was unlawful and reached via unconstitutional means

* The writ of execution, which precipitated the sheriff's sale, did not include a written notice of my right to claim exemptions (as is required by law).

* Public records indicate that Swatek never bothered to file a certificate of judgment in probate court, so there was no judgment lien on our property. No one's rights to my share of my property can attach without a judgment lien. And no legitimate sheriff's sale can take place without a judgment lien.

* I filed a notarized claim of exemption, which by law, put a stay on the sheriff's sale. That stay, by law, was in place until the opposing party filed a contest. In this case, the opposing party (Swatek and his criminally inclined client, Mike McGarity) never filed a contest.

* With no contest being filed, my claim of exemption must be upheld as uncontroverted--and the sheriff's sale is off, permanently.

In other words, by law, my share of my house remains totally mine. But the real law does not apply to Bill Swatek in Shelby County, Alabama. And that's evidently why he felt free to seek a sheriff's deed on my property. And that's evidently why Sheriff Chris Curry felt free to sign it, under oath--violating no telling how many laws, both criminally and civilly.

At this point, I should rephrase the statement in the opening paragraph. I'm never taken aback by anything Bill Swatek might do. I know his history too well (more on that coming very soon--I promise). But I guess I was mildly surprised that Chris Curry would so blatantly violate the law--almost certainly committing honest-services wire and mail fraud in the process. Curry is, after all, the sheriff, and you might expect him to have at least a modicum of respect for the law.

But hey, this is Shelby County, Alabama, where up is down, down is up, left is right (actually, everything is right, way right).

If you would like to check out Bill Swatek's little sheriff's deed, indicating that he owns a portion of my home, you can see it here. Just click on "view image" to see the actual deed.

I want to put this example of Republican corruption in perspective, but it seems that words alone simply do not do justice to Bill Swatek's brand of sleaze. So we are going to return to the videotape.

Please join me on this video blog (vlog) as we illustrate just what Bill Swatek is all about.

(To be continued . . . )

A Corrupt Bushie in Alabama, Part II

How did Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, react when I made it clear that her little gambit regarding the U.S. Postal Inspection Service had not worked?

Not real well, I'm afraid.

I had noted that the FBI's white-collar crime unit clearly appeared to be the appropriate investigative agency for my allegations, and you can read Ms. Martin's response below. I detect a certain hint of "get lost, you frickin' liberal!" in her reply:


To: Roger Shuler

From: Alice Martin

Sent: July 27, 2007

Then you can directly refer it to them, and there is no further need to write me.


Sounds like our dedicated public servant has grown weary of dealing with a certain member of the public--namely, me. But she hasn't run me off yet:


To: Alice Martin

From: Roger Shuler

Sent: July 27, 2007

To whom should I refer it at the FBI?


Ms. Martin's response is to the point:


To: Roger Shuler

From: Alice Martin

Sent: July 27, 2007

Special Agent in Charge, Carmen S. Adams


That would be the same Carmen S. Adams I copied on my snail-mail letters to Alice Martin--and from whom I've never heard a peep.

That would also be the Carmen S. Adams who is a member of the famed FBI, which states on its Web site that public corruption is one of its top priorities. This would be the same FBI to which I sent a detailed account of public corruption--on the bureau's special Web page for sending such accounts--and never heard a word in response. This would be the same FBI at which I left multiple voice messages at the white-collar crime unit in its Birmingham office and received, oh, zero responses.

Gee, I can only imagine how lax the famed bureau's response would have been if public corruption didn't matter so much to them.

By pawning me off on the infamously silent and mysterious Carmen S. Adams, Alice Martin must have thought she surely had me out of her hair.

Well, not so fast, Ms. U.S. Attorney. The Legal Schnauzer isn't through with you yet.

(To be continued . . . )

Alice Martin Receives Much-Deserved Scrutiny

Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, is used to targeting "crooks" and putting them on the hot seat.

But these days, Martin herself is on the hot seat. And more and more, the question is being raised: Is north Alabama's chief federal prosecutor a crook?

Television station WHNT in Huntsville is staying on top of the story, covering yesterday's hearing before U.S. Judge Inge Johnson. The closed hearing was to focus on Martin's behavior in prosecuting Huntsville businessman Alex Latifi.

It appears that Latifi will receive some $360,000 to compensate him for the expenses he incurred in defending a case that evidently was not grounded in fact or law.

Specifics about what, if any, disciplinary action might be taken against Martin are still to be learned. But WHNT reporter Greg Privett does a solid job of laying out the details behind Latifi's highly questionable prosecution.

You can check out Privett's piece by clicking here and going to the video titled "Where's the Justice: Bad Prosecution?"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Corrupt Bushie in Alabama

Let's return to the play-by-play account of my e-mail encounter with Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and the first federal prosecutor to go after former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.

In the most recent post in our "Malice of Alice" series, we showed how Martin had sent my allegations of wrongdoing by Republican judges in Alabama state courts (and an attorney with family ties to Karl Rove) to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

We followed that with a summary of the ground we've covered in our series that shows the slippery ways in which Alice Martin conducts her prosecutorial duties.

Now let's return to my one-on-one e-mail encounter with Alice Martin. Ms. Martin has just informed me that she has sent my allegations to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and followed up with a brief explanation as to why she sent my information to said agency.

My guess is that Ms. Martin hit the send key on her computer and thought, "Surely to God this will get rid of this pest."

If that was her thought, she was wrong about that--as we are about to see. Martin's explanation only raised the curiosity for which we schnauzers are known. So I responded with this e-mail:


From: Roger Shuler

To: Alice Martin

Date: July 27, 2007

Here is what I don't understand. My letter to you, I think, makes it clear that this is a case about fraud and white-collar crime. It's only mail fraud because the U.S. mails were repeatedly used in furtherance of a fraudulent scheme. The main crime is fraud, by white-collar professionals, with the mail being a secondary component.

As I noted in my two letters to you, this involves violation of 18 U.S. Code 1346, honest services mail fraud. In checking the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Web site, it does not appear that they are even authorized to investigate 1346 violations. Here is a link to their jurisdiction page:

Under mail fraud, the service states that it primarily investigates various forms of consumer fraud, especially as it pertains to the elderly. My case has nothing to do with consumer fraud, and I'm not elderly (at least not yet).

The case I described in my letter is similar in many respects to the case for which former Governor Don Siegelman recently was tried and convicted in Montgomery. About 20 of the 30-some counts against Mr.Siegelman involved honest services mail fraud. Did the U.S. Postal Inspection Service lead that investigation? If so, I certainly was not aware of it.

An important point: Honest services mail fraud is only one of several possible crimes here. An investigation probably would uncover evidence of bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud, RICO violations, and who knows what else. I find it hard to believe that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service would be capable of handling such an investigation.

I ask that this case be handled by the proper investigative body. I don't see how that can be anyone other than the FBI's white-collar crime unit.

Thank you,

Roger Shuler


(To be continued . . . )

Huntsville TV Station Keeps Siegelman Story Out Front

Most Alabama daily news outlets have been stunningly quiet when it comes to coverage of possible corruption in the Bush Justice Department.

But WHNT in Huntsville is providing its viewers with some real journalism on the subject. A WHNT report last night noted that Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, is the subject of an internal Justice Department probe. And reporter Jamie McGriff interviewed Martin about allegations that prosecutions of former Governor Don Siegelman were politically motivated.

You can check out the WHNT story here. You can see video of the story by clicking here and then clicking on "U.S. Attorney Alice Martin talks."

Martin, naturally, denies that the Siegelman prosecutions were politically motivated. But I hope WHNT reporters, and Alabama citizens, will keep this in mind: Alice Martin has a history of playing fast and loose with the facts.

She did it when she ran in 2000 for a seat on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

She did it when she clearly lied under oath in an employment-related lawsuit.

And she did it to me when I reported to her clear wrongdoing by Republican judges in Alabama state courts. This wrongdoing also involved an attorney with ties to Karl Rove and the Bush White House through his son Dax Swatek, who just happens to have served as Alice Martin's campaign manager in 2000.

We have much more coming on our personal experience with Alice Martin's slippery ways.

Temperature is Rising on U.S. Attorneys

Our old friend Scott Horton, of Harper's magazine, is back in cyberspace today, and he has some interesting information.

First, Horton notes that Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, is in federal court this morning to answer questions about her handling (manhandling?) of the Axion/Latifi case in Huntsville. You can get a refresher on the Axion/Latifi case here.

Here are Horton's thoughts about Martin's actions in the case:

Alice Martin is scheduled to appear this morning before Judge Inge Johnson, where she will face questions about her prosecution of the Axion/Latifi case. In particular, Judge Johnson has directly questioned whether Martin knowingly prosecuted persons she knew to be innocent for political reasons. To which the answer is an unequivocal "yes." Indeed, there is solid evidence of racist motive in the process as well. Should be quite a spectacle.

Alice says this is about "crime and crooks." Actually her job is about justice, though she seems incapable of understanding that. "Crime and crooks" reflects very accurately her pattern of prejudging everything, and of believing that anyone who opposes her, indeed anyone who's a Democrat is "corrupt" and a "crook." But is there any more corrupt and crooked person in public office than Alice Martin? I doubt it. Her office has been transformed under her leadership into the state's central bastion of corruption and abuse of power.

That is powerful language, and as usual, Horton is right on target. In fact, we are doing our best here at Legal Schnauzer to add to the growing body of evidence pointing to corruption in Alice Martin's office. Our most recent posting on the subject, from yesterday, can be read here. We have more coming later today.

Horton also has more today. In a post at his No Comment blog, Horton notes that the U.S. attorneys case now has officially moved beyond the investigation phase. A grand-jury referral in a case involving possible perjury by former Kansas City, Missouri, U.S. attorney Bradley Schlozman indicates a move toward the criminal-prosecution phase.

Schlozman was a blatantly partisan figure, Horton reports, but his case is only the beginning. Horton's sources say the most compelling cases, so far, linking Justice Department officials to possible criminal conduct come in New Mexico and California. Horton encourages us to stay tuned on those.

And what about Alabama, where this scandal has much of its roots? We will stay tuned for that, as well.

Monday, June 16, 2008

New York Times Weighs in on Siegelman Appeal

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals should take a skeptical view of the government's prosecution and conviction in the Don Siegelman case, according to an editorial in today's New York Times.

The Times notes that federal bribery statutes must be used carefully. Clearly, the paper states, the law requires an explicit quid pro quo for a bribery conviction. And The Times says the prosecution clearly did not meet that "something for something" standard in the case involving Siegelman, Alabama's former Democratic governor, and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

In addition to saying the appellate court should look skeptically at the Siegelman/Scrushy conviction, The Times says Congress should compel former White House strategist Karl Rove to testify and it should continue to investigate what role might have played in the Siegelman case and other dubious prosecutions under the Bush Justice Department.

How A Corrupt "Bushie" Operates in Alabama

Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and the first prosecutor to go after former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman, stepped in some serious doo-doo in a recent post, and we are going to show you why.

But before we do that, let's review what we've learned in our "Malice of Alice" series.

First, we provide background on my attempts to tell Martin about judicial corruption I had witnessed by Republican judges in Alabama state courts and an attorney with family ties to Karl Rove and the Bush Administration.

Then, we show how Martin sent my allegations to a most curious place for investigation--the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which does not even have jurisdiction to investigate the kinds of crimes I was alleging.

Then, we present Martin's explanation for sending my allegations to the postal inspection service.

Now, we're about to show you how and why Martin has stepped in some serious doo-doo.

But first, let me rephrase that statement: If we ever actually have an honest Department of Justice in our lifetimes, Alice Martin has stepped in serious doo-doo. On the other hand, if the DOJ continues to be run by the Alberto Gonzalezes and Michael Mukaseys of the world, Martin doesn't have a thing to worry about.

As Don Siegelman would say, she's got an "umbrella of protection" to keep her out of harm's way.

But regardless of whether the DOJ ever does anything about it or not, Legal Schnauzer readers are going to know the truth: Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, undoubtedly, blatantly, and corruptly practices political prosecution.

And how does she do it? By sending citizen complaints to the wrong investigative agency and then lying to the citizen about it.

How do we know that Alice Martin lied to us?

Remember the fourth paragraph of my second snail-mail letter to Martin:

I allege, and an investigation will show, that the individuals noted below conspired to commit mail and wire fraud, depriving the citizens of Alabama of their intangible right to honest services under 18 U.S. Code 1346. Because the limitations period begins to run after the last overt act in furtherance of the main goals of a conspiracy (United States v. Fletcher, 928 F.2d 495), all of these acts fall within the five-year mail fraud statute of limitations.

It could not have been more clear: This was about honest-services mail fraud, which is covered under 18 U.S. Code 1346. This is fraud that involves public corruption, and it is distinct from consumer mail fraud, which is covered under other statutes.

But Alice Martin, like the vast majority of lawyers I've encountered, thinks regular citizens are stupid. She figured she could pull one over on me because I don't have J.D. after my name.

Well, Martin is in for a surprise. Because I'm about to use her own words to show that she is a corrupt public official--probably far more corrupt than anyone she has ever investigated.

Just how corrupt, and brazen, is Alice Martin. Recall in her previous e-mail that she said it was "standard procedure" for a complaint alleging honest-services mail fraud to go to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

So being the inquisitive Schnauzer that I am, I thought to myself, "I wonder if that's how it was done in the Don Siegelman cases.?"

I turned initially to the first Siegelman case, the one Martin brought in the Northern District of Alabama. That case, however, was not of much help. It involved Tuscaloosa physician Phillip Bobo and the primary allegations were for conspiracy, health care fraud, and program fraud. Honest-services mail fraud was not a factor.

So I turned to the second Siegelman case, the one Leura Canary brought in the Middle District of Alabama. That's the case in which Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy were convicted, and the primary charges were racketeering, bribery, extortion, conspiracy, and honest-services mail and wire fraud.

In the end, roughly two-thirds of the charges against Siegelman and Scrushy involved honest-services mail fraud. So this was the perfect case to check and see if Alice Martin was telling us the truth.

And what do we learn? Well, consider the last paragraph of the press release (dated October 26, 2005) about the indictment:

The indictment is the result of a joint investigation initiated by federal and state authorities in early 2001 into numerous alleged improprieties in the Siegelman administration. The federal case is being prosecuted by Louis V. Franklin, Sr., the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama in this case, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen P. Feaga and J.B. Perrine; Trial Attorney Richard Pilger of the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice, which is headed by Section Chief Noel L. Hillman; and Assistant Attorney General Joseph Fitzpatrick for the State of Alabama, who is also cross-designated as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for this case. The investigation was conducted jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and agents from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, with assistance from the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.

The last paragraph tells us who conducted the investigation. Do you see any mention of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service? I don't either.

So is it "standard procedure," as Alice Martin had told us, to have the U.S. Postal Inspection Service lead an investigation involving honest-services mail fraud?

Alice Martin's own press release tells us it is not. Alice Martin's own press release proves conclusively that Alice Martin is a corrupt U.S. attorney--one who intentionally sends criminal complaints to the wrong investigative agency and then lies to the public about it.

And our paper trail on Alice Martin is just beginning.

(To be continued)

Lawyers Gone Wild

Many folks go through life and never have the "privilege" of seeing goofball lawyers in action. Unfortunately, I haven't been one of those people.

So a recent video of lawyers about to get into a fight during a deposition certainly caught my eye. I always want to take advantage of any opportunity to make lawyers look good. So let's check out these "officers of the court" in action.

Based on the accents in the video, I would say this video was taken somewhere in the South. That makes it even better.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Alice Martin's Blinders Are Firmly in Place

Folks who love horses surely are familiar with the term "blinders" or "blinkers." They are devices that are applied to racehorses, restricting their vision and forcing them to focus on what is ahead as opposed to distractions such as a crowd.

Blinders also can come in mighty handy for a U.S. attorney. Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, is a prime example.

Several weeks back, Scott Horton, of Harper's, reported that Martin had secured 10 indictments of Democratic political figures and their allies. Her idea was to keep the indictments under seal, with plans to release them drop by drop in order to boost the efforts of her Republican compadres to take control of the Alabama Legislature.

The first of Martin's indictments to be released was for Sue Schmitz, a retired 63-year-old school teacher who also serves as a Democrat in the state legislature. At the time of Schmitz arrest, Horton reported that the charge against Schmitz appeared to be a novel crime: school teacher underperforms lesson plan.

This is just one of dozens of politically inspired "public integrity" cases the Bush Justice Department has concocted around the country. But then Horton raised a key issue:

And then let’s look at the flip side: the enormous number of serious crimes which go uninvestigated and uncharged because of an official but unannounced Justice Department policy: “We don’t care.”

Horton pointed to just such a crime that appears to be going unpunished. It involves 38 cases of serious assault or rape involving women working as contractors in Iraq in support of the U.S. military mission there.

How has the Justice Department responded to these crimes?

The Justice Department has adopted a policy of official indifference. It could care less about crimes that occur involving contractors in Iraq, they just don’t matter. Note, it doesn’t matter the nature of the crime. This applies equally to murders, serious assaults, rapes and other crimes. For some reason a murder or the gang rape of a young woman from Houston is far less interesting than prosecuting a 63-year-old social studies teacher who made the fatal error of standing for the legislature as a Democrat.

Then Horton made a statement that gets to the heart of upcoming posts here at Legal Schnauzer:

My suspicion is that the attitude of official indifference is just as corrupt and political in its nature as the political prosecutions. . . . The Justice Department’s failing is not just that it abuses its resources for political schemes. It also neglects its core law-enforcement mission with respect to serious crime. Is there any way to correct this short of a sweeping replacement of personnel? That would be up to Michael Mukasey.

This is precisely what I've experienced when I've tried to bring serious crimes, committed by Alabama state judges, to the attention of the Justice Department. Specifically, I've provided Alice Martin with detailed information about these crimes, which undercut the very bedrock of our state's justice system. But she doesn't want to hear about them.

They involve wrongdoing by Republicans, and it all would reflect very badly on the father of her former campaign manager, Dax Swatek. So these serious crimes--honest-services mail fraud, conspiracy, probably more--go unpunished.

But teacher "underperforms her lesson plan?" Now, Alice Martin can sink her teeth into that, particularly when the teacher is a Democratic member of the state legislature.

We will return shortly to the specific allegations I brought to Alice Martin's attention--and how she sent them to a cold, dark place to never see the light of day.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Log in Alice Martin's Eye

Before we move forward with our tale of corruption involving Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, let's examine some material that helps put our story into context.

First, let's consider a famous verse from the New Testament:

"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

Matthew 7:3, New American Standard Bible

Most of the wrongdoers in my tale of legal intrigue appear to be professing Christians. In fact, the worst offender of all--Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner--has taught Sunday School at The Church of Brook Hills, which is just down the road from our house.

So why would a person profess to be a Christian and then turn around and act in blatantly corrupt ways?

Let's ask that question about Alice Martin. I would bet that Ms. Martin, as a devout Republican, is a professing Christian and regular church goer. But do her actions reflect any familiarity with Matthew 7:3, one of the most familiar verses in the Bible?

To help address that question, let's revist a post from a few months back on Scott Horton's No Comment blog at Harper' Horton noted that Martin produced an indictment of Alabama Rep. Sue Schmitz ostensibly for "underperforming on her lesson plan" in her professional role as a teacher. At the heart of the Schmitz indictment are charges that she did not generate sufficient "work product" and evidently did not put in enough hours on her teaching job.

Horton goes on to hint that Martin's own work attendance is somewhat less than stellar. When it comes to examining work attendance, Horton writes:

"Why stop with school teachers under a private contract? Why not focus on public office holders, like a U.S. attorney, who only seems to straggle into her office on days when she’s giving a press conference? Perhaps the public inspection of absenteeism should start with those leveling the charges."

That's not the only example of Martin failing to notice the log in her own eye.

Martin first came to national attention for the prosecution of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy under the Sarbanes-Oxley Investor Protection Act of 2002.

According to Wayne Madsen, of Wayne Madsen Report, another company in Martin's district was under severe financial duress at about the same time. That company was Martin Industries, a Florence, Alabama-based manufacturer of grills, gas heaters, and hearths. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama in Decatur, Alabama, on Dec. 27, 2002. Martin Industries was eventually bought by a Canadian firm, Monessen Hearth Systems Company.

Court documents show that Martin Industries had amassed $63 million in debt. Were Martin and her staff of 44 lawyers and 104 asssistants at all interested in using the provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley to investigate what led to such massive debt at Martin Industries? Was Martin concerned about harm to Martin Industries investors, as she had been in the HealthSouth case?

Answers: No and no.

Is it possible that Alice Martin wasn't interested because she is married to Louis J. Martin II, who was a vice president of Martin Industries? He retired at age 48 after the company declared bankruptcy in 2003.

This New York Times profile on Alice Martin mentions the financial woes of Martin Industries. But it fails to raise this simple question: Why is Alice Martin not looking into the causes of the huge financial losses at Martin Industries? Wouldn't you think the so-called "liberal media" would ask such an obvious question?

The Times story closes with this:

Ms. Martin says her zeal in pursuing the HealthSouth case is just a matter of doing her job. Last September, she said, President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft summoned the 93 United States attorneys to a conference on corporate fraud.

''They told us we had an important role in pursuing corporate fraud cases in an expeditious manner,'' she said. ''They said it was important to have 'real-time prosecutions' to help restore investor confidence.''

I guess they just aren't too concerned with the confidence of investors in Martin Industries.

GOP Judge Has Problem With Porn

A federal judge in California who was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan is being investigated for posting pornographic photos and videos on his personal Web site.

Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was overseeing a case involving a hard-core pornographer. The judge's own issues with lewd material came to light when he was interviewed by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday evening.

Kozinski asked an ethics panel of the court to initiate an investigation, and the pornographer's case was delayed at least until Monday.

The Los Angeles Times story said Kozinski had posted sexual material on his Web site and then blocked access to it after being interviewed. The site includes scenes of masturbation and bestiality.

Kozinski, known for both is intellectual rigor and outlandish personality, has been mentioned as a possible U.S. Supreme Court candidate. It remains unclear what, if any, discipline the judge could face.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Is Justice on the March in Alabama, Mississippi?

Developments this week point to progress in efforts to shine light on a possible scheme to practice political prosecution in the Bush Justice Department.

The Montgomery Independent reports that the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is focusing on the two Don Siegelman prosecutions in Alabama, examining the actions of U.S. attorneys Leura Canary (Middle District) and Alice Martin (Northern District).

OPR also is investigating the Georgia Thompson case in Wisconsin, the Cyril Wecht case in Pennsylvania, and the Paul Minor case in Mississippi.

The Independent's story, written by Editor and Publisher Bob Martin, is the first report that the OPR investigation will look at the first Siegelman case, which involved charges of Medicaid fraud. That case, directed by Alice Martin, was thrown out by U.S. Judge U.W. Clemon.

Will the OPR probe look beyond Alice Martin's actions in the Siegelman case? That's an intriguing question for us here at Legal Schnauzer. We are in the midst of a series of posts that will show conclusively that Alice Martin practices political prosecution in the form of intentionally non-prosecuting crimes of Alabama Republicans with loyalties to the Bush Administration.

Such wrongdoing is the flip side of the Siegelman case, which involved prosecution of innocent parties for apparent political reasons. My experience involves not prosecuting guilty parties for apparent political reasons--namely, that they are Republicans and loyal Bushies. We will show exactly how Alice Martin accomplishes that task, and we hope some authoritative body takes notice.

Adam Lynch of the Jackson Free Press in Mississippi continues to become a major journalistic presence in coverage of the Justice Department scandal. Lynch reports on several signs that the tide might be turning against the Bush loyalists who have corrupted our justice system.

Lynch points to a recent Justice Department motion to drop an earlier quest for harsher sentences in the Siegelman/Richard Scrushy case.

Lynch also points to a recent Raw Story report that Mississippi U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton, who directed the Paul Minor case, allegedly shared confidential income-tax returns of a prosecution target with unauthorized personnel.

Finally, we had news that a Michigan jury had acquitted attorneys Geoffrey Fieger and Ven Johnson of making illegal contributions to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards.

As for the OPR investigation, Scott Horton of Harper's magazine provides a cautionary note. Horton says he considers the OPR investigation to be a sham that will not produce substantive action. Horton's comments probably are driven by OPR's recent finding that cleared Alice Martin of perjury charges in an employment-related case--despite overwhelming evidence that Martin had indeed lied under oath.

It sounds as though Horton feels justice ultimately will lie in the hands of the U.S. Congress--and perhaps a revived Justice Department following the installment of a new administration in January 2009.

There is one sign of hope regarding OPR. Counsel H. Marshall Jarrett is not a Bush appointee. He was appointed by Janet Reno, former attorney general under President Bill Clinton.

Could 2008 Election Be Stolen?

Now that Barack Obama is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, progressives seem to have reason to be optimistic about the 2008 presidential election.

But Elliot D. Cohen, writing at BUZZFLASH, says any optimism definitely should be guarded. Why? Because there is strong reason to believe the 2008 presidential election could be stolen--just as evidence strongly suggests the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen.

Cohen is a media critic and ethicist and the author of The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and Power-Hungry Government are Turning America into a Dictatorship.

As an Alabama citizen who has become the target of retaliation because of my efforts to write the truth about the Bush Justice Department and Alabama's corrupt state courts, I take Cohen's warnings seriously.

In fact, my wife and I several times in recent days, having noticed no let-up in the brazenness with which "loyal Bushies" operate in our state, have asked this question: "Are these people so brazen and arrogant because they know the 2008 presidential election is going to be stolen? Do they continue to act corruptly because they know the Justice Department will remain in Republican hands for the next four years?"

Cohen, in a sobering piece, notes that Republicans can use some of the standard electoral tricks--disenfranchising black voters and others likely to support Obama, hacking into electronic voting machines.

But he notes some other possible tricks that probably are new to the general public:

* Because of its warrantless surveillance program, the Bush administration has installed computer technology at major telecommunications hubs (such as AT&T) that can intercept and read messages before they reach their final destination. This could be used to reconfigure balloting data.

* Similar technology can be used to intercept phone calls and e-mails from all kinds of folks, including presidential candidates and their representatives. The McCain camp, with the help of the Bush administration, theoretically could find out about Obama's latest campaign strategy and take steps to thwart it.

The final word from Cohen?

For the Obama camp, trying to win a victory against McCain and his Bush Administration support system may be like trying to play cards against an opponent who is using a loaded deck.

But all American citizens on either side of the political divide should be concerned about the prospects of the 2008 presidential race becoming a power grab where the lives and liberties of all of us are used and abused to amass power and dominance, both here and abroad. Those who support Obama need to beware. But those who support McCain need equally to beware, for winning a contest that is fixed is not really winning; and when the contest in question involves the defiling of the U.S. Constitution and the destruction of democracy, there are values at stake that far transcend one's party affiliation.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jill Simpson Fires Back at Big Bob Riley

A number of folks have asked me why I chose to call this blog Legal Schnauzer. There are several reasons.

Mainly, it's a tribute to Murphy, our beloved miniature schnauzer who was with us for 11 years and helped us survive the worst of our legal nightmare. To my wife and me, our wonderful girl Murphy embodied words such as "steadfast," "loyal," "upright," "true blue," "alert," "honest," and "dedicated."

And "feisty." Don't forget "feisty."

The more I learn about Alabama attorney and Republican whistleblower Jill Simpson, the more she seems like a human version of a Legal Schnauzer. And that's an awfully high compliment, coming from this blogger.

This might sound silly to some people, but my wife and I not only loved Murphy, we admired her tremendously. I didn't know it was possible to admire a pet in that way. But that's how we came to feel about Murphy. And having had her in our lives, I think, has helped us to admire people who stand up for what's right and don't back down easily. Jill Simpson seems like that kind of person.

When Alabama Governor Bob Riley decided to attack Simpson yesterday in an interview with the Tuscaloosa News, I had a feeling Simpson would respond in an appropriate manner. And she did--not only taking the governor down several pegs, but maintaining her own position on the high ground.

Glynn Wilson, at Locust Fork News, reports on Simpson's response today. Here are a few of my favorite Simpson points. To borrow a term from Scott Horton of Harper's, she sort of turns the governor into a "greasespot."

“My best suggestion for him is, instead of running his mouth in the press, he needs to go up there and put his hand on the Bible and raise his right hand and take an oath to tell the truth in front of the House Judiciary Committee.”

“I would ask the people of Alabama to consider that it is easy to say things in the press that may not necessarily be true, but it is entirely a different thing to put your hand on the Bible and agree to tell the truth and take an oath and do it in front of congressional committee lawyers. I took the oath. I strongly suggest they do the same.”


For good measure, Wilson reports some intriguing nuggets about the governor's son, Rob Riley, who once seemed so anxious to make statements under oath before Congress. Evidently, sonny boy is not so anxious to do that these days:

Rob Riley, the governor’s son who was in contact with Ms. Simpson as a Republican volunteer before she split with the Alabama Republican Party for being asked by their paid operatives to do “dirty, untrue research,” has so far avoided making a statement he promised to make before the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.

A report from the committee in the spring showed that the committee had made an attempt to get Rob Riley to make a statement, and that Riley indicated he would. But since then, sources say, Riley has avoided numerous attempts from the committee to get in touch with him.

Jill Simpson's critics might call her a "nut" or a "loon." But when I read her quotes, I hear the voice of a person with a clear conscience. Notice that her statements are succinct, to the point, on target--they get to the heart of the matter.

If Murphy could have talked, I think that's the way she would have sounded. She was so comfortable with her place in the world.

I get the feeling Jill Simpson is content in knowing that she speaks the truth--that she's doing the right thing--even though humans probably can never be "comfortable" in the way that dogs are.

I enjoy the fact that Simpson doesn't seem flustered when people in powerful positions come after her. I suspect that's what comes with having a clear conscience--something the Bob Rileys of the world wouldn't know anything about.