|Luther Strange and|
Jessica Medeiros Garrison
Strange and Garrison have engaged in a long-running extramarital affair that calls into question any moral authority he might claim as Alabama's chief law-enforcement officer. But a roundabout real-estate transaction in Crestline, a fashionable section of Alabama's priciest suburb, turns the spotlight off sex and onto another great motivator--money.
The house, at 119 Main Street in Mountain Brook, is in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the Birmingham metro area. The house is not huge--property records show it has 2,213 square feet, but it has plenty of what real-estate agents call "curb appeal." That, plus its setting in the prestigious Mountain Brook School System, lift its appraised value to $439,900.
That kind of payment will get you a veritable mansion in some parts of Alabama. But in Crestline, it gets you a "cute cottage"--and that's what Jessica Medeiros Garrison has.
How did this house come to be a factor on the Alabama political scene? Follow me on a brief journey of courtroom and real-estate intrigue:
After Jessica M. Garrison divorced Tuscaloosa city councilman Lee Garrison in 2009, she managed Luther Strange's successful 2010 campaign for attorney general. She then planned to move with her son, Michael Lee Garrison (date of birth, 3/27/07), to Montgomery in order to take a job as chief counsel and deputy attorney general in Strange's office.
Lee Garrison objected to the move, citing the Alabama Relocation Act, which places limits on moves of more than 60 miles. (See Motion for Partial Summary Judgment at the end of this post.) A custody battle ensued, and it was not settled until Jessica Garrison gave up her post with the attorney general's office and found employment in Birmingham with the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) and the Balch Bingham law firm. (See Amended Motion for Emergency Hearing and Order on Custody at the end of this post.)
Jessica Garrison's purchase of the house in Crestline proved to be crucial in the custody case. From court documents:
The parties were divorced . . . on October 21, 2009 . . . [and] the parties have joint legal and physical custody of their minor child. . . . The Plaintiff (hereinafter "Mother") initially petitioned this court on December 9, 2010, for full custody of the minor child due to a material change in circumstances, and included in her petition notification of an anticipated relocation. The Defendant (hereinafter "Father") responded, objecting to the proposed relocation, and counter-petitioned for a modification of custody. The Mother was able to secure alternate employment that did not require her to move more than sixty (60) miles from the residence of the Father, and she amended her Petition for Modification of Custody accordingly. The Mother's new address is 119 Main Street, Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Father's address remains 1609 Alaca Place, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Was Jessica Garrison cutting it close, under the law? Yes, she was. From the document:
The straight line measure between the two residences is 50.9 miles. . . . The shortest distance between these two locations as practically measured by a vehicle odometer is confirmed to be less than sixty miles. . . .
Records suggest that Jessica Garrison needed to not only find a house in the Birmingham area, but it had to be in the right part of the metro area. Many locations would have been well outside the 60-mile distance from her ex husband's residence in Tuscaloosa.
The ability to find and purchase a house in the heart of Crestline proved to be fortuitous to Jessica Garrison--and probably to her mentor and close personal friend, Luther Strange.
Why do we refer to the purchase as "curious." Well, when you examine certain documents closely, you notice a peculiar sales price, some dates that don't add up, and other unusual circumstances.
And speaking of money, it appears there were financial winners and financial losers in this transaction--with political power brokers perhaps pushing matters in a direction that was favorable to them.
We will take a closer look at all of this in upcoming posts.
(To be continued)