Friday, March 30, 2012

Key Figure in Rollins Divorce Case Responds To Interview Request With a Tirade

Zac Parrish

(Editor's Note: The following post contains language that some readers might find offensive.)

The former stepson of Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins exploded with profanity-filled rage when I asked to interview him earlier this week about issues related to the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case, which was decided here in Alabama and has become a regular topic on this blog.

Zac Parrish first invited me to meet him in person. When I said I would be happy to conduct an in-person interview and offered to meet him the next day, Parrish became more or less unhinged. He cussed me out, refused to answer questions, hung up on me twice, and warned me never to contact him again or to write about him.

What makes Zac Parrish think I can't write about his connections to a public court case? Why did Zac Parrish display such venom when asked about Ted Rollins? Since Parrish obviously cannot keep me, or any journalist, from writing about him and Rollins v. Rollins, what does he plan to do about it--sue me, act out in violence, hire a hit man, put me on double-secret probation? I'm not sure about the answers to any of those questions.

We've written before about Zac Parrish's role in the Rollins drama. We've reported that he is the intermediary Ted Rollins has used to issue threats to Sherry Rollins about family support for her and the couple's two daughters, Sarah and Emma, who live with their mother in Birmingham. We've reported on Zac Parrish's threats to sue me in order to keep me from reporting on Rollins v. Rollins. And we've reported on Parrish's efforts to start, a Web domain apparently designed to counter my reporting.

Parrish, 33, is the managing member of Parrish Building Company and McMichael and Parrish Homes LLC in Birmingham. He is one of two sons that Sherry Carroll Rollins has from her first marriage, to a Birmingham insurance executive named Allen Parrish. During the 14 years that his mother was married to Ted Rollins, Zac Parrish was Mr. Rollins' stepson.

That must be a sensitive subject, based on Parrish's reaction when I called him on Wednesday.

I've had several e-mail communications with Parrish, which he has initiated, and he apparently has made several anonymous comments on this blog--all seemingly supportive of Ted Rollins. But I had never spoken with Parrish until Wednesday.

According to numerous conversations I've had with Sherry Carroll Rollins, her youngest son was a central figure in several incidents that helped lead her to file for divorce from Ted Rollins in Greenville, South Carolina, where the family lived. Ted Rollins somehow managed to file for divorce in Alabama, and Shelby County Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson--acting completely without jurisdiction--issued an unlawful judgment that is so absurd it left Sherry Rollins and her daughters on food stamps.

You might think that Zac Parrish would be outraged at how his mother and half sisters have been cheated in Alabama courts. But you would be wrong; he seems outraged that I am reporting on the case and the favorable treatment Ted Rollins received. Parrish clearly expressed that rage when I called him Wednesday to request an interview.

We soon will be reporting more fully on my encounter with Zac Parrish. But for now, here are a few snippets. When Parrish asked why I had an interest in the Rollins divorce case, I explained that I'm a journalist with 30 years of professional experience and a special interest in Alabama courts--and public documents show that Rollins v. Rollins was corruptly decided in Shelby County, where I live and have been cheated myself in courts. When Parrish continued to question my interest in a public court case, I offered to let him interview me, at his convenience. Here is that exchange (ZP is Zac Parrish; LS is me, Legal Schnauzer):

ZP: Roger, I personally don't give a shit about interviewing you because I have a life of my own and a family to raise, and I have no reason to give a shit what you do, Roger. You're a loser, plain and simple. You should feel ashamed of what you do, Roger. You should feel ashamed. You're a piece of garbage, you're a piece of garbage, Roger. I hope you're recording this . . .

LS: Can I ask you some questions?

ZP: No, you cannot ask me a question . . . get your fucking facts straight.

And then there was this:

ZP: I don't know why I'm even stooping to your fucking level. But if you've got something you want to know from me, or about my family, why don't you come fucking meet me face to face?

LS: I'll be happy to. You want to set up a time?

ZP: Uh . . . yeah, sure do. Name the time and place, Roger--name it.

LS: Tomorrow? I'm open . . . I'd like to do an interview with you. I would be glad to take notes, tape record it, whatever you're comfortable with. That's what reporters do; that's what I've done for 30 years.

ZP: Roger, you're not a reporter, you're a fucking idiot. You're a fucking fool that relies on real, hard-working American citizens to pay your fucking bill--you piece of garbage.

LS: Well, Zac, I'm sorry you feel that way, but you asked me . . .

Then I heard a dial tone because Zac Parrish had hung up. But that was not the end of the conversation.

Stay tuned.

New York Mets Pitcher Reveals That He Was the Victim of Child Sexual Abuse

New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey reveals in a new book that he was the victim of sexual abuse as a child.

Dickey's revelations are the latest in a string of stories about the sexual abuse of boys, many of the cases connected to sports. The issue jumped to front pages with the arrest last fall of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

In most of the recently reported cases, the perpetrator was an adult, usually a man in a position of trust. Dickey's story has a different twist--he was sexually abused by other children. From ESPN:

New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey openly discussed Tuesday the sexual abuse he said he endured as a child, which he chronicles in detail in memoirs due to hit bookstores later this week.

Dickey, author of "Wherever I Wind Up," said he was victimized by two separate perpetrators during the summer he was 8 years old -- by a 13-year-old female babysitter and a 17-year-old male.

"I started writing the book in 2005, and it was too painful then to write," Dickey said. "So I set it down a couple of years until I felt like I had the equipment to be able to hold it well and talk about it, in an effort not only for my own catharsis, but as a possibility to help other people. Sure, it's been difficult, but I feel like I'm OK with it."

Dickey said child sexual abuse leaves tough, long-lasting emotional scars:

"It's almost like the bullying stuff," he continued. "Unless you talk about it, unless it gets out there, unless you know there are people that care about you regardless of what has happened to you, unless you know that, it's hard to get to the place where you feel comfortable not only talking about that, but talking about what it's made you into.

"One of the hopes I have for the book, and will have as long as it's out, is that people will be able to draw something from it that may help them -- whether it's to talk about it more, not to be afraid, to be open with what's happened, and that there are people available that will love you no matter what. I kind of grew up in a place where I didn't necessarily feel that."

Dickey said he struggled to share his childhood experiences with his wife and once contemplated suicide. From The New York Daily News:

Dickey, who dedicates the book to his wife and their four children, writes about how the abuse made him terrified of intimacy, of truly trusting another human being. He writes about how Anne’s love and faith and forgiveness sustained him through another crisis in his life, when he had an affair — a transgression he explores with deep remorse, one that had him mulling how he might end his life during the winter of 2005-2006.

“I betrayed my wife and there are not words that can adequately convey the guilt I felt for hurting the person who has given me so much love, who I share my life with,” said Dickey, who adds he never went so far as to attempt suicide.

Dickey credits intensive counseling and therapy, prayer and faith, and the steadfast love of Anne and his kids for helping him through his most difficult moments.

Can something positive come from the spotlight currently shining on child sexual abuse? Dickey says the answer is yes. From the Daily News:

The revelations come during a year when cases of sexual abuse have dominated the sports landscape with molestation scandals at Penn State and Syracuse. Dickey said that those events have helped make it easier to come forward.

“I think it has done a lot,” he said. “Thankfully, I think it has done a lot. I hope sexual abuse is never looked at in the same way, as far as something that is taboo to talk about, or something that is tough to discuss.”

Dickey's book is excerpted in the April 2 issue of Sports Illustrated, which is currently on newsstands.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Suspect in Blake Lazenby Murder Says Wife Offered $40,000 for a Hit Man

Calvin McCall Haynes

A suspect in the murder of Talladega attorney Blake Lazenby said Lazenby's wife offered $40,000 to have her husband killed.

Calvin McCall Haynes said he did not want to take part in the murder plot, but he provided the name of another suspect, Ocie Lee Lynch. Haynes said Earnest James Files Jr. arranged the killing on behalf of Geanne Lazenby--and Lynch and Charles Andrew Joseph Hendrix carried it out by shooting and stabbing Blake Lazenby in his Sylacauga home.

Haynes made the statements during an interview at the Birmingham Police Department in January. The statements were presented Tuesday at a preliminary hearing and reported in yesterday's edition of The Talladega Daily Home.

Blake and Geanne Lazenby were in the midst of a contentious divorce at the time of the murder last July. Four men--Files, Hendrix, Haynes, and Lynch--have been arrested in the case. Haynes said he was not present during the murder, but a man identified only as Jeremy drove Lynch and Hendrix to Blake Lazenby's house.

Geanne Lazenby has not been arrested, but the Daily Home reports:

Solicitation of and conspiracy to commit murder are Class A felonies in Alabama, punishable upon conviction by 10 to 99 years or life in prison. Conviction for capital murder carries a penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole or death by lethal injection.

According to Haynes' statement to police, Files served as middle man in the murder plot. Reports the Daily Home:

Haynes said Earnest James Files Jr., who has been charged with the same two counts in the case, approached him roughly two years ago about murdering the husband of the woman he was dating.

“The first ever, ever time, I told him I didn’t want no part of it,” Haynes stated in the recording. “He came back in another year, last year. He was with the girl he was with and two children in a white Chevrolet Silverado. There was a white woman in the front and two kids in the back. (Files) was like, “She wants to talk to you about killing her husband.” She asked me to come around to her side, and I did. She was like, ‘I have all the money right here. I just want the job done.’”

Haynes said the woman showed him a bag full of money, but he did not count it.

“It was a lot of money,” he said. “Then she was like, ‘I want my husband dead.’ I said I didn’t want no part of it, but I said, ‘Well, Ocie (Lynch) might do something like that.’”

The plan picked up steam, according to Haynes, when Lynch became involved:

Haynes said he then contacted Ocie Lee Lynch, 30, of Birmingham, who is charged in this case with two counts of capital murder committed during a burglary in the first degree.

“I go to Ocie,” Haynes said. “I was like, ‘Well, the lady said she got 40 G’s, and she want her husband killed. Are you down with it?’ And he was like, ‘I’m down with it.’”

He said Files gave Lynch $2,000 of his own money when he agreed to carry out the murder. Haynes said he was not at Lazenby’s house the night of the murder, nor did he ever visit the house.

“(Files) wrote down the address and told Ocie how to get there,” Haynes said. “When he wrote down the address, Ocie was like, ‘I got it. You ain’t got nothing to worry about.’”

Haynes account is curious because it does not seem to fit with what we have reported earlier about the relationship between Geanne Lazenby and Earnest Files. From a post dated February 22, 2012:

According to documents obtained through the Coosa County Sheriff’s Department, Geanne Lazenby, who was living in Alexander City, filed a harassing communications and criminal trespass complaint against Files on March 28, 2011. According to her complaint, Files called her cell phone more than 100 times in less than a week, including once while a deputy was taking her statement. She said she had repeatedly told him not to call her, and added that he had visited her home on two occasions in spite of being told not to come by, either.

Haynes has Geanne Lazenby and Earnest Files acting as accomplices in a murder plot. Public records show Geanne Lazenby filing a criminal complaint against Earnest Files in an effort to keep him away from her.

Can those two accounts be reconciled? Perhaps we will find out soon. More preliminary hearings are scheduled for April 10.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

University of Alabama Trustees Could Help Befoul the Drinking Water for 200,000 People

The water intake facility
 on the Mulberry Fork 

The University of Alabama Board of Trustees is led by a man with documented ties to massive insurance fraud. The board soon could sell or lease property for a strip-mining operation that would threaten the drinking water for approximately 200,000 people.

Those two sentences probably seem incongruent to a reasonable person. But they sum up the facts surrounding the Shepherd Bend Mine project, which has been generating spirited opposition for about five years now. The controversy might have reached a crescendo late last week when Black and White, an alternative biweekly newspaper in Birmingham, released perhaps the most comprehensive report on the project so far. Titled "A River Ruined Through It," the investigative piece is available in the March 22-April 4 issue.

Reporter David Pelfrey, practicing the kind of journalism that is all too rare in our state, found that university officials recited mostly stock answers when questioned recently about the project. And that was from the few UA higher ups who would even respond to Pelfrey's queries; most avoided him altogether.

The issue is picking up steam as the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release new rules on greenhouse-gas emissions that could end the construction of coal-fired power plants. Do the UA trustees care that they might be signing off on a strip-mining project just as the days of coal-fired plants could be numbered? Can we expect forward thinking from the leaders of our flagship state university? If they think money can somehow be made on the front end of the mining project, probably not.

UA's muted response to Pelfrey's questions should not inspire confidence in metro Birmingham residents who could see their drinking water befouled by the Shepherd Bend Mine. Citizens should be even less confident when they learn that Paul Bryant Jr. president of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, has documented ties to a $15-million fraud scheme.

As we have reported in a series of posts, one of Bryant's companies, Alabama Reassurance, was implicated in a 1997 criminal case that netted a 15-year prison sentence for a Pennsylvania lawyer/entrepreneur named Allen W. Stewart. Public documents show that Alabama Re, with at least $238 million in admitted assets, has since been liquidated and replaced by a company called Alabama Life Reinsurance. Those same documents show that Alabama Re had a five-person board, headed by Bryant, and only two full-time employees. It's hard to believe that anyone in such a closely held company could be unaware of a fraud scheme that left numerous consumers with worthless life-insurance policies.

In short, Paul Bryant Jr. is head of a company that has shown it operates in a greedy and unlawful fashion, with little concern for the public good. And yet, Bryant now heads a university board that could have a profoundly negative impact on the public--by turning over the board's land to a strip-mining project near a major source of drinking water.

What's at stake? The University of Alabama System owns the majority of the 1,773 acres at the mining site. The board of trustees issued a request for proposals in May 2007 that would lease the land and mineral rights for surface coal mining. Black Warrior Riverkeeper has led the opposition and says the project would discharge wastewater into the Mulberry Fork, only 800 feet from a major drinking-water intake for the Birmingham Water Works Board.

Shepherd Bend LLC has the leases it needs to begin mining on only 34 acres at the site. To move forward, it will need leases from other property owners, including the University of Alabama System. Without the consent of the UA System, the project might not be economically feasible.

And that's where potential conflicts of interest enter the equation. Shepherd Bend Mining LLC is owned by members of the Drummond Coal Company family, and Garry Neal Drummond is an emeritus member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. Will the trustees help one of their own turn a tidy profit by putting a key source of drinking water at risk? Pelfrey addressed that issue with Kellee Reinhart, the UA System's chief spokesperson and one of the few people who would respond to his questions:

Since Garry Neal Drummond, the owner of a multinational coal mining company and one of the most powerful industrialists in Alabama, is a trustee emeritus and an historic mover and shaker at UA, I asked Vice-Chancellor Reinhart if Garry Drummond had urged the board of trustees to make that Shepherd Bend property available for mining. Ms. Reinhart immediately said that I should consider the fact that Mr. Drummond has not sat on the board since 2001. That was by no means an answer to the question, but the very implication that Drummond is not part of the story because of his status with the board of trustees did lead to a key point in how the board operates (more on that later). In the meantime, I asked Reinhart why no trustee was willing to say how they would vote should the opportunity to sell the Shepherd Bend land to a coal mining interest. Reinhart says that "Typically the board does not pro-actively go out and take a position on business that is not currently before the board, or if it is not relevant to a decision they have made."

Pelfrey also examines the power that Bryant wields on the board, especially on a land-related issue:

Who are the most powerful trustees? In the narrow context of selling or leasing land for surface mining, at the top of the list might be Paul Bryant Jr., after which in no particular order are Angus Cooper, Finis St. John, Judge John England, and Joe Espy. These particular trustees form the board's Executive Committee, chaired by Bryant. This committee enjoys an interesting distinction, per Article IV, Section 1 of the bylaws of the UA Board of Trustees: Without further approval of the Board, the Executive Committee shall have the authority to lease, sell and convey real property of the Board, or any interest therein.

Translation: Paul Bryant Jr. chairs a committee that can unilaterally ensure that the Shepherd Bend Mine project moves forward.

Bryant's history as a businessman, especially involving Alabama Re, suggests that he hardly is a big-picture guy. He's a bottom-line guy, who is interested mainly in power and money--and he's willing to bend rules to obtain either.

Should he be involved in making decisions that could affect the quality of drinking water for some 200,000 people in and around Birmingham?

The answer to that question clearly is no. But Alabamians have allowed corporate types to dominate our executive, legislative, and judicial branches--even the boards of our universities. We've allowed moneyed elites to control every facet of our public life.

Because of that, we might soon have the nasty drinking water that corporatists think we deserve.

Here is a video about the Shepherd Bend controversy by UAB film student Rebecca Marston. It was released on February 14, 2012:

The Ripple Effect from Rebecca Marston on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Fully Loaded" Activities at The Grove Apartments Include Homicides, Shootings, and Car Jackings

The Grove at Clarksville, Tennessee

Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins has an MBA from Duke University, so it stands to reason that he knows a thing or two about business. But Rollins must have skipped classes for the marketing component in Duke's MBA program. How else can you explain Rollins' approval of the slogan "fully loaded" for the student-housing complexes his company builds under The Grove banner?

Was no one at the company capable of looking ahead and seeing that an unfortunate event likely was to happen at one of their facilities, bringing a dark and ironic twist to the term "fully loaded." Such an event happened recently when 23-year-old Shardae Wright was shot to death in her apartment at The Grove in Clarksville, Tennessee, near Austin Peay State University. Nicholas Rico Durant, Wright's boyfriend, has been arrested and charged with murder.

This was not the first time "fully loaded" has taken on a dark meaning in relation to a Grove site--and it surely will not be the last. Does the company plan to continue with that marketing campaign? We put that question to Ted Rollins in the wake of Shardae Wright's shooting death, but he has not responded to our message.

Rollins has been the subject of numerous posts at Legal Schnauzer because of Rollins v. Rollins, a divorce action he initiated in Alabama that left his ex wife and two daughters on food stamps here in Birmingham. For good measure, Rollins has a $26.3-million Grove project planned at Auburn University. Once completed, that complex should liven things up at the "Loveliest Village on the Plains."

It's been almost two years since Sherry Carroll Rollins contacted me and began to talk about an ex husband who belonged to one of the nation's wealthiest families, who managed to sue her for divorce in Alabama even though she sued him first in South Carolina (where they lived), and who was launching a company to build apartment complexes near college campuses around the country.

When news broke that the company had completed a $382-million Wall Street IPO in late 2010, it was obvious this was to be a major venture, run by serious business people. So I was stunned to discover that Campus Crest Communities planned to market itself as a provider of "fully loaded" living for college students.

Anyone paying the slightest attention to American culture knows we are awash in guns and alcohol--and both tend to be available to college students. Even the most unhip folks among us know the term "loaded" has unfortunate connotations when applied to firearms and booze. You did not have to be a visionary to see that the term "fully loaded" was going to come back to bite Campus Crest Communities on its marketing fanny.

In fact, the biting started long before the shooting death in Clarksville, Tennessee. In November 2009, a man was charged with felony reckless endangerment and public intoxication after firing a gun into a woman's apartment at The Grove in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, near Middle Tennessee State University. Suspect Angelo Demetrius Leach apparently was "fully loaded" in at least two senses of the term.

In July 2011, a woman had her 2005 Nissan Altima carjacked at The Grove in Mobile, on the campus of the University of South Alabama. In that case, the assailant wielded a knife, so it's not certain he qualified as "fully loaded."

These are serious matters, and we don't mean to make light of situations where young people have found themselves in danger. That's why we put some serious questions to Ted Rollins following the homicide at Austin Peay. The CEO has stated to us several times that he would be "more than happy" to respond to written questions, and we have submitted questions via e-mail on more than a dozen occasions. He has yet to respond to any of them.

Here are the questions we asked after the shooting death of Shardae Wright:


I understand that a resident was murdered Friday evening at The Grove apartment complex near Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN.

I am developing a post about the homicide for tomorrow morning (3/7), so I wanted to give you an opportunity to comment by responding to the following questions:

* What does this incident say about security at The Grove complexes?

* What does this say about safety of students who live at The Grove, coming close on the heels of a balcony collapse at your complex near North Texas State?

* Are you concerned about your marketing theme--fully loaded living--in light of a shooting death at one of your properties?

* I wrote just this morning about allegations that you committed perjury in the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case in Alabama, and you did not respond to questions in advance of that post. What does your own apparent disrespect for the law say about the lawlessness that now seems to be permeating your apartment complexes around the country?

This is a time-sensitive story, so I would appreciate a prompt response.

Does Ted Rollins' failure to respond indicate that he simply does not care that a young woman lost her life at one of his properties? Does it mean he does not have good answers to questions about safety and security for residents at The Grove? Does it mean he doesn't know what to do about a marketing campaign gone awry?

I could see how a reasonable person might answer yes to all of those questions.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jerry Sandusky and the Emotional Damage that Pedophiles Leave Behind

Jerry Sandusky

A psychologist told police in 1998 that the behavior of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky fit the profile of a "likely pedophile." No one took action on the finding, and Sandusky allegedly went on to sexually abuse children until he was arrested in late 2011.

NBC News broke the story on Saturday about the psychologist's report in the Sandusky case. On the same day, here in Alabama, we learned about a lawsuit that has been filed against a man who was convicted last year of child sexual abuse that took place while he was the director of a day-care center in a Birmingham suburb. That man, Robert Eugene Frost, is serving a 20-year prison sentence for sexual abuse of a child under age 12. This is the second lawsuit filed against Frost, 77, and the now-defunct day-care center he operated in Cahaba Heights; a previous lawsuit was filed last December. The Birmingham law firm of Bradford Ingram and Ladner filed the most recent complaint.

The latest stories raise at least two profound questions, coming amid a wave of reports from around the country about the sexual abuse of children--by adults who are in positions of trust:

* How can we do a better job of spotting pedophiles, preferably early in a process that tends to spread over years and involve multiple victims?

* What kind of psychological wreckage do pedophiles leave behind for victims and their families?

The Sandusky story shows that signs of child sexual abuse often are present--if those close to the situation are alert to them. But it also shows that even experts do not always agree on what those signs mean:

NBC obtained a copy of the campus police department's investigatory report on an encounter in which Sandusky was accused of having inappropriate contact with an 11-year-old boy with whom he had showered naked on the Penn State campus.

The police file includes the report of State College psychologist Alycia Chambers, who interviewed and provided counseling to the boy.

"My consultants agree that the incidents meet all of our definitions, based on experience and education, of a likely pedophile's pattern of building trust and gradual introduction of physical touch, within a context of a 'loving,' 'special' relationship," Chambers wrote.

However, a second psychologist, John Seasock, concluded that Sandusky had neither assaulted the boy nor fit the profile of a pedophile.

Robert Eugene Frost
What becomes of the victims, even in cases where an abuser is identified, arrested, and convicted? That question is at the heart of the lawsuits against Robert Eugene Frost and the day-care center he operated. From

The mother of a child whose allegations of sexual abuse at a Cahaba Heights day care center led to the director's imprisonment has now filed suit against the director, the now-defunct center and others.

The suit filed by "V.C." on behalf of her daughter, "R.C.," is the second such suit filed against Robert Eugene Frost, who is serving a 20-year sentence after his conviction last year of sexual abuse of a child under age 12. . . .

The allegations that Frost, 77, sexually touched the girls at the day-care center were part of his prosecution in Jefferson County Circuit Court. A jury was unable to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared on two counts of child sex abuse, but he was convicted of molesting R.C. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction in March.

The complaint addresses the psychological damage that abusers leave behind:

The latest civil suit, filed Thursday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, said both R.C. and her mother, V.C., have suffered extreme emotional duress, anxiety and physical distress as a result of the molestation. The suit says the plaintiffs have incurred medical bills as a result of the sexual abuse and R.C. will require ongoing counseling.

"That's the reality of it," said V.C.'s lawyer, William Bradford, who filed the lawsuit with Joseph Ingram and Amber Ladner. "Throughout their lives they will need counseling to help them get over it. If there is a way to get that for them then we'd like to do that."

It's unclear if Frost has the kind of assets that can provide much relief for his victims. An report about the first lawsuit hints at a party that might be liable:

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It also claims Frost, the day care center he operated and its church sponsor were negligent in training and supervising Frost.

The suit contends Frost, 76, sexually touched the girl several times between 2008 and 2010, ending when she was 5 years old. Frost told the girl that her mother would hate her if she told anyone. The mother-daughter relationship continues to be strained because of the threats, the suit said.

Frost was arrested in 2010 at Christian's Day Care and Learning Academy, and charged with sexually abusing two girls, including KD.

What church sponsored Christian's Day Care and Learning Academy? The answer to that question is not apparent from news reports. But it reminds us that Sandusky was tied to the Second Mile Foundation, a child-welfare organization in Pennsylvania.

That's not the only similarity between the Sandusky and Frost cases. Perhaps the most alarming one is this: Sandusky was 68 years old when he was arrested, and Frost was in his mid 70s. It seems safe to assume that abhorrent behavior toward children did not suddenly spring to life in their senior years.

How many children did they abuse--and how many adults missed opportunities to stop them?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Facebook Warns Prospective Employers Not to Ask for Passwords in Job Interviews

A story about employers asking prospective workers for their Facebook passwords during job interviews has spread rapidly this week on the Web. Now, Facebook itself has joined the fray, warning employers to back off.

When I first heard about the story, I thought it was a joke. But it's serious, as this piece from Reuters shows, with its headline "More Employers Asking for Facebook Passwords." From the Reuters piece:

Studies have shown that Facebook can be a useful hiring tool. Just a 5- to 10-minute perusal of a user’s profile can net more information than a basic personality test. It’s no wonder employers head to the site to check out prospective hires.

But one problem remains: Many users are now going private, cutting off their profiles from outside viewers. As a result, a new trend has emerged. Employers are reportedly now asking job applicants for Facebook passwords. Is this a good idea? Can you legally ask a job applicant for a Facebook password?

Reuters quotes a law professor who says the practice is "an egregious privacy violation," but then adds it appears to be legal. Facebook now has weighed in, strongly suggesting that employers drop the tactic. From an Associated Press report:

Facebook is warning employers not to demand the passwords of job applicants, saying that it’s an invasion of privacy that opens companies to legal liabilities.

The social networking company is also threatening legal action. . . .

In a post on Friday, Facebook’s chief privacy officer cautions that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer may open itself up to claims of discrimination if it doesn’t hire that person.

“If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password,” Erin Egan wrote.

It's unclear what kind of legal action Facebook might take. But if the social-network giant were to start suing employers who discriminate against its users . . . well, this could get interesting.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Accused Child Rapist In Ohio Has Ties to Young Republicans

Jason Zwick

One of three men arrested last month in the rape of three boys near Dayton has ties to the Young Republicans of Ohio.

Jason Zwick has been indicted on three counts of felony rape and could face up to 11 years in prison on each of the charges. Kenneth Brandt, the adoptive father of the boys, has been indicted on 31 counts of felony rape. A grand jury in Miami County issued the indictments against Zwick and Brandt, while the case against a third suspect, Patrick Rieder, is being handled in Montgomery County.

A profile of the suspects in The Dayton Daily News said Zwick, 29, comes from an upper-middle class family that is well connected in Ohio political circles. The report said Zwick's Facebook page showed that he "liked" the Ohio Young Republicans. It's not clear if Zwick was an official member or just shared the group's ideals.

The report said Zwick comes from a "family with strong ties to the community, local politicians and office-holders. His father owns a financial services business and his mother is an award-winning elementary schoolteacher . . . " More about Zwick from The Daily News report:

A Facebook page with his name was taken down shortly after his arrest. That page showed he “liked” the Ohio Young Republicans and motorsports and listed many Greene County officials as “friends.”

Multiple friends and acquaintances of Zwick’s parents, Michael and Anita, did not want to comment for this story, but conveyed that the family is community-minded and involved in the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce.

Before their recent arrests, authorities said, the suspects appeared to be living as "average Joes." From The Daily News:

By all appearances, Kenneth Brandt, Jason Zwick and Patrick Rieder blended well into their communities.

None of the three had significant criminal records when they were charged with child rape last month. Brandt was known in Miami County as a foster parent advocate. Zwick is a member of a well-connected Beavercreek family.

Federal authorities are considering child-exploitation charges in the case. Brandt's leading role is expected to bring scrutiny of procedures for placing children with foster and adoptive parents. From The Daily News:

Brandt, who is unmarried, owned Brandt Insurance Services. He did not have a license to sell insurance, but told others he was a claims adjuster, Anderson said.

He was also, for a time, president of Miami County Foster Parents Inc., a nonprofit organization that raises money to purchase toys for foster children. . . .

Brandt was initially certified as a foster parent in February 2005 in Miami County, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. That certification transferred to Montgomery County in May 2008. In October 2009, he had a foster care certification approved through Adopting Children Today Information Option Network (ACTION), the non-profit group that helped him adopt his three children.

Miami County officials confirmed last week that four foster children were placed in Brandt’s home between November 2006 and August 2007. One was a 15-year-old boy who later was moved to a group home.

Technology helped break the case, according to The Daily News:

Brandt was arrested Feb. 24, after a representative from the Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force contacted Troy police and said that an undercover detective had been communicating online with Brandt, who was making arrangements to allow the detective to have sex with a 10-year-old boy.

Rieder was arrested Feb. 27 and Zwick was arrested Feb. 28.

Before the undercover bust, none of the three, who remain in custody, had crossed police radar for sex crimes against children.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fight Back Against Cheats and Liars By Making Technology Your Friend

Police using pepper spray at
UC Davis

We live in a world of liars. That statement, by itself, is not breaking news. By virtue of being human, all of us are capable of telling lies, big and small.

But I've noticed a relatively new development on the falsehood front in postmodern America--at least I hope it's new. A significant number of Americans now are willing to lie under oath; they swear to tell the truth, under threat of criminal sanctions, and then lie about matters that are material to an official proceeding.

To make matters worse, our institutions have become so corrupt that an alarming number of public officials--we're talking mostly about judges--ignore blatant instances of false swearing. More often than not, I suspect, those who lie under oath are rewarded. (More on that in upcoming posts.)

If you ever are victimized and try to do something about it in an official setting, the wrongdoer (or someone involved in the chain of wrongdoing) is almost certain to lie about it. What is a citizen with a conscience to do?

Experience tells me that there is no simple answer to that question. But my best suggestion is this: Make technology your friend. Liars and cheats, I've found, have a universal dislike for tape recorders, video cameras, and the like. These tools can provide indisputable evidence of wrongdoing--and the scoundrels among us do not enjoy being confronted with that.

Our courts have become so corrupt that even indisputable evidence cannot guarantee you a just outcome. (More on that, also, in upcoming posts.) But video and tape recorded evidence can present daunting dilemmas for those who would try to lie their ways out of jams. And in the age of the blogosphere, you can bypass courts and present your evidence directly to the court of public opinion.

That has a tendency to level the playing field--at least a little bit. Let's consider two stories from recent months where indisputable evidence, gathered and distributed through the use of technology, helped shift public perceptions:

* Pepper Spray and the Occupy Wall Street Movement--On November 18, 2011, protesters at the University of California Davis gathered as part of the nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement. According to early reports, the protesters became menacing, forcing police officers to defend themselves with the use of pepper spray. There was only one problem for the cops who gave that version of events--someone with a video camera caught the whole thing on tape, and it showed protesters sitting peacefully, with their arms interlocked, while officers doused them with pepper spray. Two cops involved in the incident and the police chief have been placed on administrative leave. A task-force report on the incident will be released in April.

* A Basketball Coach, Syracuse University, and Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse--When Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine first faced allegations of child sexual abuse, the university placed him on administrative leave. Fine denied the allegations as "patently false," and it looked like he might wind up keeping his job. But then ESPN reported that one of the accusers had tape recorded a phone conversation with Laurie Fine, the coach's wife. In the tape Laurie Fine says, "I know everything that went on with him . . . Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues." Laurie Fine even suggested that she watched her husband molest a boy who was staying at their home. Hours after the new evidence emerged, Bernie Fine was fired--and university officials admitted their actions were prompted by the audiotaped evidence.

Leonard Pitts, of The Miami Herald, examined the actions taken against peaceful protesters at UC Davis and asked these sobering questions:

As we grapple with this vandalism of the First Amendment, we should ask ourselves this: what if there had been no cameras on hand? What if we had only the word of the protesters and their sympathizers that this happened versus the word of authority figures that it did not? Is it so hard to imagine the students’ claims being dismissed, the media attention being a fraction of what it is, the public’s outrage falling along predictable ideological lines and these cops getting a walk?

These questions resonate here at Legal Schnauzer. As regular readers know, my wife and I have tape-recorded evidence that proves wrongdoing against us in two separate legal matters. My unlawful termination at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) was driven by my reporting on this blog--on my own time, with my own resources--about the political prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman. A UAB human-resources official named Anita Bonasera admitted that to me in a tape-recorded phone conversation, and I've run the audio numerous time on Legal Schnauzer. In fact, you can check out a video, featuring the Bonasera audio, at the end of this post.

Have UAB officials punished Bonasera and others who caused me to be unlawfully fired--and returned me to my job? No, they have not. That's probably because UAB higher ups ordered my firing, at the behest of certain conservative political figures in the state. I strongly suspect that one or more members of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees signed off on my career assassination. For good measure, UAB lawyers have happily watched as corrupt U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. has cheated me at every turn, so far, in my pending federal lawsuit. I've referenced Acker's antics in several posts, including this one, and have much more coming.

Lisa Huggins, UAB's chief lawyer in most employment cases, has a duty under the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct (ARPC) to report misconduct by any lawyer (including a judge) to the appropriate tribunal or other authority. The law is the only fully self-regulating profession in America, and Huggins' duty is spelled out in Rules 8.3 and 8.4 ARPC. Does Huggins take her duty seriously? Obviously not. She's watched as Acker has bastardized simple procedural matters and engaged in conduct that is blatantly "prejudicial to the administration of justice." So much for the ability of lawyers to police themselves.

Angie Ingram
The missus and I also have tape-recorded evidence of debt collectors from the Birmingham firm Ingram and Associates repeatedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) while trying to collect a debt I allegedly owed to American Express. The local firm, headed by a lawyer named Angie Ingram, was hired to collect the debt by a large Pennsylvania outfit called NCO. Multiple parties in our federal lawsuit admitted this, but we have recordings of Ingram representatives repeatedly saying they had been hired by American Express to sue me--that Angie Ingram was American Express' lawyer. This is both a grotesque violation of the FDCPA--which prohibts any false or deceiving statements to alleged debtors--and it also represents fraud under Alabama state law.

Angie Ingram must have done quite a few favors for her fellow members of the legal tribe because they have come out of the woodwork to protect her. These include federal judges making a slew of unlawful rulings in Ms. Ingram's favor, and we soon will be showing you exactly how they pull this off.

But we also are going to circumvent our corrupt courts and go straight to the public with our tape recordings of Ingram representatives lying to us, threatening us, and trying to defraud us. And this happened even though sworn statements show that Ingram had no proof that I even possessed an American Express card, much less that I owed a debt on one.

My record on using technology to fight corruption is mixed. In the early stages of our struggles with a difficult neighbor, which led to all of our legal headaches, I did not have an indisputable record of certain key conversations. At the time, I had no idea these property-related issues would turn into a legal matter--and I never dreamed that you could be baldly cheated for seeking redress in a court of law.

I've learned my lesson the hard way. As a result, we soon will be showing you how certain debt collectors--acting on behalf of corporate giants like American Express and NCO--try to get away with cheating consumers.

And I'm not going to allow corrupt judges or lawyers to keep this story from being told. I will take it directly to you, our readers.

As for audio that proves I was terminated from my job for exercising my First Amendment rights, you can check that out in the following video:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Misconduct in Ted Stevens Case Shines a Glaring Light on Siegelman Prosecution

Henry F. Schuelke III

A special counsel late last week released a scathing, 525-page report about Department of Justice misconduct in the prosecution of Ted Stevens, the late U.S. senator from Alaska. News of the release received scant notice in the mainstream Alabama press, so you would never know the story has profound implications for one of the most high-profile criminal prosecutions in our state's history.

As often is the case in "The Heart of Dixie," we must rely on "an outsider" to provide context for a story that has major importance within our borders. Thankfully, Harper's legal-affairs contributor Scott Horton is up to the task of explaining what misconduct in the Stevens case means for the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

We might sum up Horton's take with these two key points:

(1) If special counsel Henry F. Schuelke III thinks DOJ personnel behaved abhorrently in the Stevens case, he truly would be blown away by their behavior in the Siegelman case;

(2) If prosecutorial misconduct caused the DOJ to come to an agreement that vacated convictions in the Stevens case, justice demands similar action in the Siegelman case.

How bad was the misconduct in the Stevens case? Prosecutors introduced evidence they had clear reason to believe was perjured. They concealed from the defense the fact that their star witness had perjured himself in an earlier case. FBI agents failed to follow standard procedures when taking written notes of witness interviews. Prosecutors planted false stories in the mainstream press.

Those are just a few "highlights" from the Stevens matter, but Horton says they pale in comparison to what we know about the Siegelman case:

DOJ spokesmen are laboring to minimize the damage from this report. They will stress that this was a single incident. But in fact, hardly a week passes without reports of scandalous misconduct by prosecutors involving the suppression of exculpatory evidence. And for every case that surfaces, probably ten do not, because a cloud of prosecutorial privilege envelops their conduct, shielding it from view. The Stevens case isn’t even the worst example of prosecutorial misconduct in corruption cases involving public officials, though it is typical in terms of the complaints that it raised.

The case involving former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, for instance, features both more serious and better documented instances of wrongdoing by prosecutors. The conviction is still pending in that case, with the Justice Department steadfastly arguing, in the face of mounting evidence, that it did nothing wrong.

Horton then recounts much of what we know went terribly wrong in the Siegelman matter, focusing heavily on statements from Tamarah Grimes, a DOJ whistleblower once based at the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery:

A member of the prosecution team has openly admitted that prosecutors cajoled, coached, and pressured two key prosecution witnesses to give false or misleading evidence—in one case conducting more than seventy intimidating interviews. She also acknowledged the existence of a binder filled with notes recording some of these sessions, which would have furnished powerful exculpatory evidence, and which might well have led a judge to bar the testimony entirely, but was withheld from the defense. Prosecutors initially misled the court about the existence of the binder, then conceded that they had it but wouldn’t turn it over. The prosecutor who arranged and oversaw the entire matter was in fact the wife of the man managing the campaign of Siegelman’s opponent—a hair-raising violation of prosecutorial ethics, which could have justified her removal from office and even her prosecution. When her role was exposed, she made a pretense of recusing herself from the case, though one of her own staffers acknowledged that she continued to run it. Senior figures in the Justice Department, notably David Margolis, dismissed concerns about this reprehensible conduct—apparently feeling that any acknowledgement of wrongdoing would tarnish the department as a whole. They then stonewalled the House Judiciary Committee’s efforts to investigate the matter and blocked production of materials sought under the Freedom of Information Act.

Notice, in bold, that Horton suggests former U.S. attorney Leura Canary might have committed criminal acts in the Siegelman prosecution. You won't be reading that in The Birmingham News or any of the other newspapers. You also won't read about the dubious actions of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, who presided over the Siegelman case. Writes Horton:

The major difference between the Siegelman and Stevens cases is simple: the Stevens case was presided over by Emmet Sullivan, one of the nation’s most respected federal judges. When he sensed that something was wrong with the prosecution’s handling of the case, he pressed them on it, and when it was clear that prosecutors had lied to or misled him, he appointed a special prosecutor to investigate their misconduct. In the Siegelman case, by contrast, the judge attempted to press the same sort of questions that Emmet Sullivan did, but prosecutors responded by maneuvering, through bizarre sleight of hand, to bring their case to a different district before a judge who they fully knew had a grudge against Siegelman—a highly unethical maneuver that paid off handsomely.

These facts help explain why, as the Wall Street Journal reports, more than 100 former state attorneys general from both political parties have joined in a brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Siegelman conviction—a historically unprecedented campaign. George Will recently backed the initiative.

Even if the Siegelman convictions are vacated, the matter should not end there. The public should demand that light be shined in some very dark holes at the U.S. Department of Justice. Writes Horton:

A Congressional inquiry into the systematic misconduct inside the Criminal Division is necessary, as is legislation, such as the bill recently proposed by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), that would sanction prosecutors who withhold exculpatory evidence. The Department must be challenged on its persistent whitewashing of ethics violations, and on its obstinate refusal to punish prosecutors who engage in acts that might well be prosecuted if they were done by defense counsel. The Justice Department says constantly that it “takes its disclosure duties seriously,” but its conduct plainly establishes the opposite. The Department’s credibility and integrity are now plainly on the line.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Roy Moore or Harry Lyon Cannot Make the Alabama Supreme Court Any Worse

Roy Moore

Political observers from both the left and right are aflutter over a Roy Moore v. Harry Lyon showdown for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Conventional wisdom holds that, whichever candidate wins the general election in November, our highest court will be irreparably damaged and our state will once again be embarrassed on the national stage. Neither Moore, a Republican, nor Lyon, a Democrat, seems to possess the kind of background or temperament one would expect for a chief justice.

Moore is famed for being forced from the state's high court in 2003 when he refused a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state's judicial building. Moore's political career appeared to be dead, but GOP "values voters" provided new life by giving him a resounding victory over two establishment, pro-corporate candidates in last week's primary. Lyon is famed for . . . well, not much of anything--other than running numerous times for various statewide offices while never coming close to a victory. Harry Lyon is the classic "perennial candidate," one with a colorful biography that includes run-ins with various neighbors and law-enforcement types and several public utterances that might cause one to suspect he's a bit daffy.

Some politicos consider the situation so dire that they reportedly are trying to find an independent candidate to join the fray. Democrats might be looking at ways to replace Lyon on the ballot.

But here is the ugly truth: Alabama appellate courts in general, and the supreme court in particular, already are a joke--and neither Roy Moore nor Harry Lyon is going to make them worse.

Critics have pointed out that both Moore and Lyon have shown a lack of respect for the rule of law. After all, it's undisputed that Moore was willing to ignore a federal court order. And Lyon has been publicly  disciplined three times by the Alabama State Bar. But I would submit that they aren't any worse than the justices who already sit on our highest court.

That last statement is not made for the purposes of snark. It's the cold, uncomfortable truth--and I know it's true, both from reporting on our appellate courts and from my own personal experiences with them.

Let's consider three cases from the past eight years where the GOP-dominated Alabama Supreme Court has overridden fact, precedent, and common sense to favor their corporate benefactors:

* The ExxonMobil Case--A jury found that ExxonMobil had intentionally shortchanged the state for natural-gas royalties and awarded the state more than $3.6 billion in damages. The Alabama Supreme Court overturned most of the award in late 2007.

* The AstraZeneca Case--A jury awarded the state $274 million in a fraud lawsuit against three pharmaceutical companies--AstraZeneca, Novartis, and GlaxoSmithKline. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the companies did not defraud the state in pricing Medicaid prescription drugs and overturned the award in 2009.

* The Baptist Health Case--A jury awarded $3.2 million in a wrongful-death case, but the Alabama Supreme Court overturned the verdict in 2011, finding that Baptist Health in Montgomery enjoyed "state immunity" because of its affiliation agreement with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). State, or sovereign, immunity is a dubious concept to begin with, but our high court stretched it to heretofore unknown boundaries.

As for my personal experience with Alabama's appellate courts, it's been "highlighted" by an appeal in the bogus lawsuit filed against me by our criminally inclined neighbor, Mike McGarity. It's hard to imagine a case that could be easier for a court to decide. I filed a properly executed motion for summary judgment, supported with material evidence (in the form of affidavits), as required by law. That shifted the burden to McGarity, the nonmoving party, to show through his own response and evidence that there was a reason for the case to go to trial.

Harry Lyon
The case had to be dismissed on so many grounds--eight to 10, at least--that I filed three motions for summary judgment (MSJ), each raising distinct issues of fact and law. One MSJ should have been sufficient, but trial judge J. Michael Joiner refused to follow black-letter law and grant summary judgment. On the first MSJ, McGarity filed a response, but he filed no timely evidence as required by law. He did file an affidavit--which did not dispute the fundamental facts and law at hand--but it was 10 days late and had to be stricken as a matter of law. Joiner denied summary judgment anyway.

On the second and third MSJs, McGarity filed no response at all--no affidavit, no evidence, nothing. That meant the evidence I filed, which was different from the evidence in the first MSJ, was uncontroverted. In such circumstances, Alabama law is clear: Summary judgment must be granted and the case dismissed. In fact, the law in all jurisdictions is clear: Such an MSJ simply cannot be denied, and it's a "nondiscretionary" ruling.

Rule 56(e) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure makes it clear. So does Alabama case law:

When a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment offers no evidence to contradict that presented by the movant, trial court MUST consider the movant's evidence uncontroverted, with no genuine issue of material fact existing." Voyager Guar. Ins. Co., Inc. v. Brown 631 So. 2d 848 (Ala., 1993).

Law does not get much more clear than the finding in Voyager. But Joiner could not get it right, and the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals affirmed his ruling with no opinion. I filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, seeking review from the Alabama Supreme Court.

Did the high court have an obligation to act? Yes, it did--and Rule 39 of the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure spells it out:

A petition for a writ of certiorari will be granted only when there are special and important reasons for the issuance of the writ. . . . In all civil cases petitions for writs of certiorari will be considered only . . . from decisions in conflict with prior decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Supreme Court of Alabama, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, or the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

The Rules of Appellate Procedure state that the Alabama Supreme Court has a duty to correct decisions that conflict with its own prior decisions. And the trial court and the Court of Civil Appeals made findings in McGarity that clearly conflicted with Voyager.

Did the Alabama Supreme Court fulfill its duty to get it right, to make sure that its prior decisions were  respected and upheld? No, it did not. It denied certiorari review in McGarity, meaning an unlawful finding against me remains on the books.

That ruling came with Drayton Nabers serving as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. And it proves that our high court has shown little respect for the rule of law, long before the Roy Moore v. Harry Lyon controversy took flight.

Moore and Lyon might seem, to some, like goofy candidates. But the Alabama Supreme Court already is a joke--and they can't do anything to make it worse.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Private Investigator Says Major Bashinsky Death Looks More Like A Murder Than A Suicide

Paul Ciolino

(Corrected version posted on 3/25/12: The original version of this post contained an inaccurate quote in the 16th paragraph, which begins, "You would need access to his computer. . . . " Words in bold have been added to correct and clarify the quote.)

It was two years ago today that the body of prominent Alabama attorney Major Bashinsky was found floating in a golf-course pond in Birmingham. The Bashinsky case, including the official finding of suicide, has been emitting a foul odor for some time--and the stench is every bit as strong today as it was two years ago.

A nationally known private investigator has added to the equation by saying the case has the characteristics of a murder, not a suicide.

Paul Ciolino, a Chicago-based PI who has provided crime analysis for CBS News and other media outlets, said he read about the Bashinsky case here at Legal Schnauzer. Ciolino said that information he gleaned from our reports--plus his years of experience in fraud, abuse, and death investigations--led him to conclude that the official finding of suicide rests on shaky ground.

"I read through (your work) and thought to myself, 'You are probably on the money here,' Ciolino said. "I've gotten to the point where I specialize in these kinds of cases, and I get a lot of them. A lot of times I've got to go tell parents or friends that this guy probably did commit suicide; we'll never know, but I can't find anything to indicate that somebody would kill him. But it sounds to me like you are on the right path."

Bashinsky was reported missing on March 3, 2010, and his body was pulled from a water hazard at Highland Park Golf Course on March 15. Nine days after the body was recovered, officials ruled Bashinsky's death was a suicide. We have pointed out numerous reasons to question the suicide finding, and Ciolino is on the same page with us.

Ciolino first came to our attention with his work on the death of boxing great Arturo Gatti. A coroner in Montreal, where Gatti lived, announced that the boxer died violently by asphyxiation but could not determine whether another party was involved. Officials in Brazil, where Gatti died, announced they were reopening their official inquiry based on the work of several PIs, including Ciolino.

Several factors about the Bashinsky case--the deceased was from a wealthy family, he was married and had young children--stand out to Ciolino. "Rich guys--if they have a lot of mental health issues or they are going broke or they defrauded a company out of a few million dollars or a big scandal is about to hit--(suicide) can happen. But it doesn't sound like that was going on here.

"This guy was an estate attorney, and I think if he was inclined to commit suicide, he probably would have left a note, with details about how things were to be handled. One of the key things is that he had two young children and apparently an OK marriage. Guys who are rich, with little kids . . . everything I'm reading in this thing stinks."

Does Ciolino know what he's talking about? Here is a portion of the bio from his Web site:

[Ciolino] is licensed in Illinois. He has earned a number of professional designations such as: Certified Fraud Examiner, Certified International Investigator, and Board Certified Forensic Examiner (Fellow). He has given dozens of speeches on a diverse array of investigative topics ranging from debunking experts, to investigative ethics, to child homicide, sexual abuse, repressed memories, and death penalty investigations. A seven-year U.S. Army veteran, and the former chief investigator of the child homicide team for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, he is an adjunct lecturer at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and Columbia College, Journalism Department in Chicago. He has also been a guest lecturer at Yale Law School. He was also one of the co-founders and primary instructors on investigative tactics at the first Conference on Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty held at Northwestern Law School in Chicago, Illinois.

Ciolino was the primary investigative advisor to the Innocence Projects at: Northwestern Law School, The Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and DePaul University, Center for Justice in Capitol Cases, College of Law, all in Chicago.

Ciolino is the author of "In The Company of Giants: The Ultimate Investigation Guide For Legal Professionals, Journalists And The Wrongly Convicted." He is the co-author of the best selling and critically acclaimed textbook "Advanced Forensic Civil Investigations," published by Lawyers and Judges Publishing Company. He is also the co-author of "Advanced Forensic Criminal Defense Investigations," which was published in November of 1999. His articles on investigative topics have been published worldwide. He is a three-time winner of NALI's annual Editor-Publisher Award for best articles published in their educational journal, The Legal Investigator. He appears regularly on FOX, CNN, MSNBC, as well as CBS, NBC, and ABC.

According to published reports, Bashinsky picked up his cholesterol medication shortly before his death and he apparently walked quite a distance from his car to the golf course where his body was found. Ciolino calls those "red flags."

"This is highly suspicious, at the very least," Ciolino says. "When someone commits suicide, there is a lot happening in his life usually. Going to pick up his medication is not the actions of guy who is getting ready to go dust himself. And rich guys don't walk to the suicide place . . . he would be more likely to pull up in a parking lot, go over to a nearby spot and shoot himself. I think he would have left a note, and he wouldn't have tied himself up. There are a lot of things I don't think he would have done if this was, indeed, a suicide."

Getting to the bottom of the Bashinsky case could prove difficult, Ciolino said. "Unless you have a family member who wants to take an aggressive stance and look at it, you will never know.

"You would need access to his computer, you've got to talk with his friends, people he golfed with and socialized with. The duct tape and rope thing is classic 'not suicide.' People don't tie themselves up when they commit suicide unless they want to make it look like it was not a natural death--they want it to look like a homicide.

"There are a lot of easier things this guy could have done if he wanted to kill himself. He could rent a boat, go out in the gulf, fall over the side, and everyone would call it an accident. No one would suspect suicide--and probably no one is going to find a body, if you are out far enough. A guy like this would know that."

Ciolino is featured in the following CBS News report about the Amanda Knox case:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Here Is More Evidence That CEO Ted Rollins Lied Under Oath To Reduce His Child-Support Payments

Ted Rollins

(With update at 1:20 p.m., 3/14/12; please see end of post.)

Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins offered his ex wife $300,000 to settle their Alabama divorce case just weeks after stating under oath that he made $50,000 a year.

If you are thinking those numbers don't add up, join the crowd. Sherry Carroll Rollins, who lives in Birmingham with the couple's daughters Sarah and Emma, rejected the offer for a variety of reasons. But she quickly noted the incongruity between the settlement offer and Ted Rollins's sworn statement about his finances. Ms. Rollins discussed the settlement offer during the third installment of a videotaped interview with Legal Schnauzer. (See the interview at the end of this post.)

Ted Rollins swore in a child-support affidavit, called a CS-41 form in Alabama, that he made $50,000.04 a year from employment with Reynolds Mortgage and Investment Company of Brentwood, Tennessee. Sherry Rollins said she knew the sworn statement was false for a couple of reasons--one being that she called Ken Reynolds, the head of Reynolds Mortgage, and he said that Ted Rollins had never worked for him.

"The other reason I know it's fictitious is that (Ted) offered me $300,000 outside of court, after I had filed my appeal . . . ," Sherry Rollins said. "A guy making $50,000 a year probably does not have $300,000 to offer.

"I also know he has extravagant taste and lives an extravagant lifestyle, with very nice houses, and $50,000 a year doesn't do that."

Public documents show that Ted Rollins was president and/or CEO of both St. James Capital LLC and Campus Crest Communities at different times during the divorce litigation. But his CS-41 form makes no mention of either company--or of any income he derived from them.

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, as it often does, rubber-stamped the decision of Shelby County Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson, meaning Ms. Rollins' appeal failed. That left her with $1,315 a month in combined child support and alimony to raise two daughters. Crowson's ruling was so stunningly favorable toward Ted Rollins that his ex wife and two daughters have been on food stamps in Alabama.

As has been my practice since I started reporting on Rollins v. Rollins, I sent Mr. Rollins written questions   about the false-swearing allegations well in advance of my post on the subject, giving him every opportunity to respond or explain himself. As has been Mr. Rollins' practice, he failed to respond to our questions.

For the record, here are the questions that we posed to Ted Rollins--and he ignored:


Following are questions, sent in writing per your request, regarding your involvement in the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case and Campus Crest Communities.

I. The CS-41 Affidavit You Filed Regarding Child Support in Alabama

Sherry Carroll Rollins, your ex wife, states in an interview that information on your CS-41 form is false and that your child-support payments in Alabama are based on perjury and fraud. Ms. Rollins states that she spoke with Ken Reynolds, of Reynolds Mortgage Company in Brentwood, TN, and she called him because your child-support payment was two months late at the time. Ms. Rollins states that Mr. Reynolds told her you had never worked for him, even though your CS-41 form says you did. Ms. Rollins also states that the lifestyle you lived while married to her indicates your income was substantially higher than $50,000.04 a year.

A. Do you have any documentation to prove you worked for Reynolds Mortgage Company? Will you provide me with a copy of those documents?

B. Do you have any documentation to prove that your only income was $50,000.04 from Reynolds Mortgage, that you had no other sources of income at the time?

C. Do you have any documentation regarding the existence of St. James Capital LLC and Campus Crest Communities at the time? Did you derive any income from those entities?

C. Do you have other sources of income now? If so, are you aware that Alabama law would allow for adjustment in child-support payments, based on a change in your financial status?

D. Are you aware that the CS-41 is a sworn affidavit, which you signed under penalty of perjury? Are you aware that swearing falsely in an official proceeding constitutes perjury in the first degree, a Class C felony in Alabama?

I ask that you respond to these questions by 9 a.m. CDT on Monday, March 5

Is this a serious matter? Mr. Rollins' actions, as described by his ex wife, appear to constitute perjury under Alabama law. And here is how the Code of Alabama defines the crime:

Section 13A-10-101 - Perjury in the first degree.

(a) A person commits the crime of perjury in the first degree when in any official proceeding he swears falsely and his false statement is material to the proceeding in which it is made.

(b) Perjury in the first degree is a Class C felony.

Our research on the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case indicates that Ted Rollins is a stunningly arrogant fellow. Perhaps that comes with belonging to one of the nation's wealthiest families, the folks behind Orkin Pest Control and its parent company, Rollins Inc. of Atlanta. Two of Ted's cousins, R. Randall Rollins and Gary Rollins, run Rollins Inc. and are billionaires (with a "b"). St. James Capital was a joint venture between Ted and Randall Rollins, so there is a pretty good chance it was a profitable enterprise. And yet, Ted Rollins stated under oath that he had made no money from it.

How arrogant is Ted Rollins? For one, he apparently doesn't think laws that require court testimony to be truthful apply to him--as they do to commoners. For another example, consider how he treated a woman who was married to him for 14 years and produced two children:

Settlement negotiations in a lawsuit tend to be filled with twists and turns, and details on the Rollins settlement discussions are sketchy. Sherry Rollins has discussed the process with me on several occasions, and I know that she was represented during the negotiations by a Birmingham lawyer named Sam Holmes. Ms. Rollins hired Holmes after her trial attorney, MaryLee Abele, refused to become engaged in the appellate process.

Theresea Kilgore
My understanding is that Ted Rollins started out by offering his ex wife (and mother of his two daughters) in the range of $40,000 to $50,000 to settle the divorce case. It's not clear if that was to be in lieu of, or in addition to, the alimony/child support that Crowson had granted.

Either way, this tell us that Ted Rollins, in addition to being ethically challenged, is preposterously cheap. Here is another oddity about the settlement negotiations: A woman named Theresea Kilgore accompanied Sherry Rollins to the negotiations, which were conducted at the Harbert Center downtown. Ms. Kilgore repeatedly encouraged Ms. Rollins to accept various low-ball offers from Ted Rollins.

Ms. Rollins refused, and I understand that she worked the settlement figure up to about $300,000 and was prepared to accept that on one condition--that Ted Rollins stay out of her life, and the lives of her children, forever. Ted Rollins, I'm told, rejected that proviso, and the negotiations broke down.

Many questions remain about the Rollins divorce negotiations. For one, who on earth is Theresea Kilgore, and why was she involved, supposedly as Sherry Rollins' helper/supporter? You can check out Ms. Kilgore's Facebook page here.

For another, why was Sherry Rollins willing to accept a relatively paltry sum, $300,000, in order to get Ted Rollins out of her life? For an idea of how bad a deal this would have been for Ms. Rollins, let's revisit our post about the divorce of wrestling icon Hulk Hogan. In that one, Hulk coughed up a $3-million property settlement, along with 70 percent of the couple's liquid assets and 40 percent of his various companies, plus a chunk of investment assets and various vehicles.

And yet, Sherry Rollins was willing to walk away for about $300,000--from a man whose net worth might exceed that of Hulk Hogan? She was willing to give up pretty much any claims to substantial marital assets in order to be free from Ted Rollins?

One of the outcomes of many divorces, of course, is that the ex spouses leave hating each other. That often is driven by misconduct within the marriage, and Sherry Rollins alleged adultery in her original divorce complaint that was filed in South Carolina.

But it appears that Ms. Rollins feelings for her ex go beyond standard loathing, even the kind that can result from adultery. She was willing to accept probably way less than one-tenth the amount she was entitled to under the law in order to be rid of Ted Rollins--to have him out of her life and the lives of her children.

That indicates that Sherry Rollins had concerns about Ted Rollins that go beyond the standard "I hate your guts" variety in a divorce case. It indicates she had concerns that go beyond infidelity. What were those concerns?

We will be examining that question in upcoming posts.

UPDATE (at 1:15 p.m., 3/14/12)

We have new details about settlement negotiations in the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case:

Negotiations did not break down during the session at the Harbert Center. Ted Rollins offered Sherry Rollins $300,000 and gave her five days to accept it. He then faxed her three documents to sign in order to receive the money. The documents included:

1. A form stating that Ms. Rollins would never take him back to court for any raise in alimony or child support;

2. A document stating that Ted Rollins was a fit and good parent and was equally fit as Sherry Rollins;

3. A document stating that Sherry Rollins fled to Alabama and hid the children from him for two years and would not let him see them.

Ms. Rollins was to sign the three documents and withdraw her appeal. She refused to sign the documents and withdraw the appeal--and that's when Mr. Rollins withdrew the $300,000 offer.

My take on these new details? It appears that Mr. Rollins was trying to force his ex wife to sign at least two documents (Nos. 2 and 3 above) that were based on false information. We've already shown, through the Alabama CS-41 form, that Mr. Rollins has a tendency to sign false documents under oath. Now it appears he tries to coerce other individuals into doing the same thing.