Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Here's How An Alabama Newspaper Approaches Public Corruption Stories

Is John Archibald a tool?

This question came to mind the other day when reading a John Archibald column in The Birmingham News about the indictment of Mayor Larry Langford.

To his credit, Archibald raises the "tool" question himself. And based on my personal experiences, I'd have to say, "Yes, John, it does appear that you are a 'tool' of your bosses at the News."

Let me explain. About three months ago, Archibald asked to meet with me after I had e-mailed him following a column he had written that was critical of the Shelby County Sheriff's Department. The column focused on the department's handling of a multiple murder in the Inverness area.

I wrote and told Archibald that I had evidence that the department's problems go well beyond the murder case. He wrote me back, said he had received similar complaints from a number of Shelby County residents, and we arranged to meet at the Safari Cup downtown on September 9.

We visited for about 45 minutes, and Archibald seems like a pleasant enough fellow. I gave him an overview of my experiences, focusing mainly on Sheriff Chris Curry's willingness to push ahead with a unlawful auction of our house. I told Archibald that I could show him documentation and citations from statutory and case law to support my claims that Curry acted corruptly--in conjunction with Pelham attorney William E. Swatek's, whose son Dax has ties to Governor Bob Riley and GOP operative Bill Canary (and through Canary to Karl Rove).

Not surprisingly, I've yet to see anything in The Birmingham News about corruption among white Republicans in Shelby County. But the paper devoted almost six full pages to alleged corruption by Langford, who happens to be a black Democrat.

Here is an e-mail I sent to Archibald on December 6, reminding him of our long-ago visit about problems in Shelby County:

From: Roger Shuler rshuler3156@gmail.com

Date: Sat, Dec 6, 2008 at 7:31 PM

Subject: Langford vs. Shelby County

To: John Archibald jarchibald@bhamnews.com

I was intrigued by your column of December 4, 2008, regarding the Larry Langford case.

You note the importance of evidence in determining whether someone is prosecuted, and I certainly agree with you on that. You also note community activist Frank Matthews and his contention that The Birmingham News plays an active role in determining what public officials do and do not receive scrutiny--and perhaps prosecution--in our community.

I think Matthews has a point, and I will tell you why.

Perhaps you recall that you and I met for about 45 minutes on Sept. 9 at the Safari Cup downtown. You asked to meet with me after I had responded to one of your columns that was critical of the Shelby County Sheriff's Department, particularly its handling of a multiple murder in the Inverness area. I had e-mailed you and said the handling of the murder case is only one of many problems associated with the Shelby County Sheriff's Department. You responded that you had received numerous notes from citizens citing troubling experiences with the department and asked to meet with me. My impression is that you also planned to get the stories of other citizen complainants.

It's now almost three months since our meeting, and I've yet to see a word in the paper on the subject of wrongdoing by the Shelby County Sheriff's Department. I e-mailed you a few weeks back for a status report on the story and received no reply.

The issue has been ignored even though I showed you extensive evidence--citing chapter and verse on fact and law--to support my claims of corruption under Sheriff Chris Curry. I also showed you evidence that this corruption is tied to a local attorney who has direct family ties to Governor Bob Riley.

I can only wonder what kind of information you might have received from other citizens.

If evidence shows that Larry Langford is a crook, then he should pay the piper. But I can't help but notice that the News provides wall-to-wall coverage of a case involving a black Democrat while ignoring wrongdoing by a white Republican.

That seems to coincide with the way U.S. Attorney Alice Martin conducts her business. Speaking of Martin, you note that some folks consider her "Darth Vader in the flesh." Well, I am one of those people, although I hate to give Darth Vader a bad name. My feelings come from personal interaction with Martin. I have indisputable evidence that Martin picks and chooses her cases based on politics. I've outlined much of this evidence on my blog, Legal Schnauzer, and I have more evidence to come.

Please consider this a personal invitation for us to reconvene at the Safari Cup and go over how Alice Martin really operates. Of course, we should only meet again if you truly are serious about reporting on public corruption as practiced by both political parties, not just one.

You noted that Frank Matthews labeled you a "suspected tool of your bosses." Is Matthews right about that? Well, based on the results of the meeting I had with you, I wonder if the answer is yes.

I would be happy to be proven wrong about that, but I'm not holding my breath.


Roger Shuler

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