When I set out to write a blog about justice-related issues, I never dreamed that drunk driving would become one of our topics.
But DUI is on our radar because three such Alabama cases have interesting connections to our Legal Schnauzer story.
We recently wrote about the DUI cases of two Alabama football heroes--former University of Alabama and Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken "Snake" Stabler and former Auburn University and San Diego Chargers running back Lionel "Little Train" James.
We also noted that the subject of DUIs is of particular interest here because William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig, a "person of interest" in my unlawful termination at UAB, has an appeal of his drunk-driving conviction set for December 1.
The latest news is that Lionel James last week pled guilty to two DUI charges in Shelby County, Alabama, and was scheduled to enter an inpatient treatment program. James received a 12-month sentence and will return to the Shelby County Jail once he finishes treatment. With successful completion of the treatment, he will have to serve only 60 days, minus time previously spent in jail or treatment.
A number of intriguing parallels are present with the James and Hazelrig cases:
* James' lawyer, Tommy Spina, also is scheduled to represent Hazelrig in his appeal;
* Both Spina and Shelby County Chief Assistant District Attorney Bill Bostick praised James for admitting his guilt and accepting his punishment. Court records, however, show that Hazelrig has no intention of doing either of those things. He was convicted in Mountain Brook Municipal Court of DUI, speeding, and driving with an improper tag. He is appealing that conviction in Jefferson County Circuit Court.
The fact that Hazelrig is appealing his conviction indicates that he does not plan to follow Lionel James example of taking responsibility for his actions.
So how strong is the evidence against Hazelrig? I would say it is overwhelming, and one can only wonder what kind of defense strategy Spina will come up with. Hazelrig's actions, which already have drawn a conviction in one court, indicate an appalling lack of concern for the safety of others.
We will be getting to the evidence in the Hazelrig case shortly. But let's keep this in mind. Chip Hazelrig is no regular guy who had the bad luck of getting pulled over after drinking one too many. He has a long history of dreadful behavior behind the wheel, and his most recent actions are about as bad as any DUI case I've ever heard of.
Hazelrig is one wealthy dude, with serious political connections--all of which appear to be to the Republican Party. He gave $5 million to UAB for construction of a new radiation-oncology facility, and that is believed to be the largest individual gift in university history.
So money gives Chip Hazelrig clout with UAB. Would that clout help him get a UAB employee fired, particularly if said employee was writing a blog that caused discomfort for some of Hazelrig's GOP associates?
We will be examining that question. And we will ask this question: Should a public university accept donations--for health-care purposes, of all things--from an individual who has a driving record that indicates he is a public menace?
By accepting Chip Hazelrig's cold cash, is UAB essentially condoning unlawful behavior that puts citizens' lives at risk?
Is UAB really interested in the public's welfare, or does it merely want to kiss the rings of big donors who have some seriously dirty laundry?