Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Another Mysterious Death Darkens the Political Landscape in Karl Rove's Alabama

An investigator in the office of Alabama Attorney General Troy King recently died under mysterious circumstances, adding to a growing list of suspicious deaths in the final 12 months or so of Governor Bob Riley's two terms.

Robert William "Bob" Caviness died on November 15 in Alexander City, Alabama, where he lived. Multiple sources have told Legal Schnauzer that Caviness died from a gunshot wound to the head, and his death apparently is being considered a suicide.

Sources also say that Caviness was friends with Ralph Stacy, a Business Council of Alabama (BCA) executive who was found dead in his office in September from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Caviness and Stacy reportedly shared a common faith and both were lay ministers.

An obvious question: Was Bob Caviness investigating his friend's death and did he get too close to the truth for someone's comfort?

Another question: Is this toxic environment a natural by-product of efforts by Karl Rove and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to take over Alabama courts in the 1990s--which served as a precursor to the Don Siegelman prosecution and other nasty events in our state?

Caviness was 46 years old, with a wife and two sons. He had worked for the Montgomery Police Department, mostly in drug investigations, for 20 years before going to work for the Attorney General's Office. Here is his obituary from the Web site of an Alexander City funeral home:

Robert William "Bob" Caviness

April 20, 1964 - November 15, 2010

CAVINESS, Robert William “Bob”, age 46, a resident of Alexander City, AL; passed away Monday, November 15, 2010. Funeral services will be held Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. at Mountain View Baptist Church with Rev. Anthony Counts officiating. Burial will follow at Pine View Gardens with Gassett Funeral Home of Wetumpka directing. Mr. Caviness is preceded in death by his parents, George Walter Caviness, Sr. and Barbara Ruth McCarty Caviness. He is survived by his wife, Rebecca Caviness, two sons, Cole and  Parker Caviness, niece, Lauren Parker, nephews, Dallas Caviness, Devin Caviness, and Carson Parker. Pallbearers will be Devin Whittle, Dan Blackmon, Jeff Glass, Gene Sisson, Kyle Clark, Eddie Spivey, Jerome Hand, and Bill Hamil. Visitation will be held Wednesday, November 17, 2010 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Gassett Funeral Home. Mr. Caviness will lie in state one hour prior to service time at Mountain View Baptist Church.

Several of the pallbearers listed in the obituary work in the Attorney General's Office.

The Caviness case marks at least four suspicious deaths that we know of in 2010, all involving people with some connections to the Riley administration or its activities. Caviness' boss, Attorney General Troy King, is a Republican and once was a Riley ally. But the two have had a very public and ugly falling out over gambling-related issues. King has stated that electronic bingo generally is legal in Alabama, while Riley launched a crusade to shut down gaming facilities in Alabama.

Eleven lobbyists, legislators, and gaming figures--including the high-profile Milton McGregor and Ronnie Gilley--are under indictment on charges related to gambling legislation. The investigation has been led by U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, a Riley ally and George W. Bush appointee who, inexplicably, has remained in office throughout the Barack Obama administration.

What are the other suspicious deaths? We have written several posts about Major Bashinsky, Zoa White, and Ralph Stacy:

* Major Bashinsky--The 63-year-old son of one of the state's best-known businessmen was reported missing in early March. About two weeks later, his body was found floating in a golf-course pond on Birmingham's Southside, and his death was ruled a suicide. His father, the late Sloan Bashinsky Sr., was the CEO of Golden Enterprises, the maker of Golden Flake potato chips and snack foods. In the months leading up to Major Bashinsky's disappearance, the Estate of Sloan Bashinsky was involved in a lawsuit with W and H Investments of Birmingham, seeking an accounting of some $37 million the elder Bashinsky had invested with the firm--mostly in oil wells. A settlement was approved in the lawsuit on March 1, two days before Major Bashinsky was reported missing. One of the partners in W and H Investments is William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig, who once had a campaign contribution to Bob Riley returned when it was discovered that Hazelrig was a founding partner of a company called Paragon Gaming. Both Hazelrig and Rob Riley, the governor's son, had ties to a company called Crimsonica, which is based in Tuscaloosa and run by a man named Robert Sigler.

* Zoa White--A former Riley campaign worker, the 69-year-old White was found dead in her midtown Mobile home on June 28. News reports have said she was beaten to death with a hammer. White had worked in the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) under Bill Johnson, who went from being a member of the Riley administration to one of the governor's harshest critics. Johnson was so close to White and her family that he helped notify friends about funeral arrangements. Mobile police recently made an arrest in White's murder, but they have said little about evidence found in the case. The prosecution will be led by Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, who is commander of Riley's anti-gambling task force. Suspect Carlos Edward Kennedy has been denied bond in the case and is represented by a court-appointed lawyer.

* Ralph Stacy--He was in charge of strategic communications and was a chief lieutenant to BCA president Bill Canary. Canary, who is Leura Canary's husband, is a long-time associate of Karl Rove and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue. Montgomery police have released few details about Stacy's death, and the Montgomery Advertiser has written almost nothing about it. Stacy was 53, with a wife, Angel, and a daughter, Savannah. Friends and colleagues described him as a jovial man who was a popular public speaker. Before moving under the BCA banner earlier this year, Stacy had served as director of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, which represented the state's 120 Chambers of Commerce and had some 60,000 dues-paying members. The BCA, with about 5,000 members, reportedly had long coveted the sizable membership over which Stacy ruled.

Is it coincidence that these deaths happened in 2010, as Bob Riley's term was winding down and the governor was engaged in a high-profile crusade against gambling interests? Is it coincidence that these deaths occurred as questions continued to rise about Riley's financial support from the Mississippi Choctaw Indians, reportedly laundered through GOP felon Jack Abramoff? Is it a coincidence that Bob Riley has strong ties to Bill Canary, Karl Rove, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce--and Riley's term is ending amidst a disturbingly high body count? It could be. Is it possible that there is nothing suspicious about any of these deaths? Yes, that's possible.

Is it also possible that at least one or two of these deaths involved foul play connected to state government--and perhaps GOP shenanigans on a national scale? Solid information on these cases is hard to come by at the moment, but given the toxic environment that has engulfed Alabama for the past 15 years or more, we think the answer to that question is yes.


mark said...

Wow. It is really a mess over there. I'm saying this sincerely: be very careful because you are exposing powerful forces and they are unpredictable and do not like to be questioned. I'm sure you know this but just please be cautious and aware.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting within that whole Bob Riley gambling indictment situation that Bill Johnson, a one time Riley Cabinet member, offered to testify before a Grand Jury but was politely ignored?

Robby Scott Hill said...

I've lost more than one friend because I carry a pistol & sleep with a shotgun, but the same people who villify me for the practice are friends with the likes of Emory Folmar & other high level Republicans who don't go anywhere without their guns. One day back in 2005, I passed Emory Folmar in the Montgomery County Courthouse & he had his ABC Board badge clipped to his suit & you could see his gun bulging from underneath his coat. Folmar doesn't go anywhere without that .38 pistol.

Anonymous said...

People do actually commit suicide. More frequently than most people realize. It's incredibly painful for families to deal with, and it doesn't help to have pointless speculation made like this. This fixation of yours reminds me of the right wingers who were "convinced" that Bill and Hillary Clinton had murdered a bunch of people, including Vince Foster. Foster's own family begged people to stop the hurtful speculation, because they knew he had killed himself and there was no reason to believe otherwise. There is just no evidence that these deaths were anything other than what they were reported to be.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon: Appreciate your thoughts. I'm certainly aware that people do, indeed, commit suicide. In one of these cases--the one involving Major Bashinsky--I have seen the autopsy report. And there are all kinds of reasons to doubt the suicide finding, some of which I've already written about. You say there is "no evidence" that these deaths were anything other than what they were reported to be. How do you know that? The evidence for suicide in the Bashinsky case is extremely weak. The other cases have been pretty much ignored by the mainstream press, so we don't know much about the evidence. All of these people, based on my research, were healthy, happy, successful people, who had a lot of friends and family members--many reasons to live. Such people, of course, do commit suicide. But I think it's extremely unlikely that all four of these were what they appear to be.

Anonymous said...

It is indeed true that many people who are loved and have financial success -- as you say, "many reasons to live" -- also commit suicide. I have had friends and relatives who have done so, in spite of having "many reasons to live." In the case of men, they frequently give no warning before taking their own lives. You spoke specifically of Major Bashinsky, whom I did not know, but with whom I shared a number of friends in common. None of those friends believe his death was anything other than a suicide. I think the reason the mainstream press have not pursued these stories is because there is no story to pursue beyond what is already in the public domain.

Robby Scott Hill said...

It's true that people commit suicide for many reasons, but a few apparent suicides are in fact professional hits. I don't plan on being the guy who goes down like that. This goes contrary to what we were taught in church & school, but it's OK to give yourself permission to protect your own life! Put a shotgun under your desk. Use +P loads, carry an additional pistol like a snub nosed .38 for backup. Then, throw in a knife & some key chain pepper spray for good measure. If you can control your fear, you will kill your attacker. Imagine how you will empty an entire magazine of lead into your future attacker & finish him off with a knife. Actually practice doing this on a dummy. Ten shots to the chest to take him down & ten slashes to the major arteries to make sure he's dead. It's your life & you only get one of them. I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six & a dead guy makes a poor witness.

legalschnauzer said...

Hey Rob:

Could you offer a training course for those of us who have been repeatedly threatened by the thugs who have come to control Alabama?

I'm starting to think a Charles Bronson approach is the only way to achieve justice in our fine state.

Anonymous said...

jesus said,'i'm paraphrasing'that
we need not follow rules that
have become obsolete,simply because they are tradition.and so for some of
us who were brought up to believe
that it was wrong to carry weapons
we must now choose the only option
if our lives are actively in danger
we must defend ourselves

Anonymous said...

I just want to say Thank You. Some Journalist's are so scared to report the Truth. I know this because I know some Journalist's. Television will get rid of their Reporters if they get too close to the TRUTH. But we (the little people) deserve to know the
Truth. Keep it Real and Thanks for the job you do.

Panamaed said...

How does the guy from St. Joe Company tie into all of this. He sure did bail in a hurry and went back to JOE.

legalschnauzer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
legalschnauzer said...


Do you know the name of the guy from St. Joe Company? That sounds vaguely familiar to me, but can't place who you are referring to.

Panamaed said...

Neal Wade.

Unknown said...

These are the children of the ppl who threatened death to people if they sat at a lunch counter or rode a bus. What would you expect. They still kill today it's just harder to cover and the ppl they kill happen to matter to the media. It's the South.