Monday, February 9, 2015

Susan Lindauer shines light on my experience as only incarcerated journalist in the U.S. since 2006

Susan Lindauer
My arrest for blogging, and the subsequent five-month incarceration, were the focus of a live interview on Saturday at Covert Report with Susan Lindauer on

It probably is the most detailed account made public so far of my experience as the only journalist to be incarcerated in the United States since 2006--and the only one to be imprisoned this century in a purely civil matter.

The interviewer, in this instance, has a deep understanding of what I went through. Lindauer is a journalist, antiwar activist, and former Congressional staffer, who lives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. Five FBI agents knocked on her door in 2005 and arrested her for "acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government" and violating U.S. financial sanctions during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. How solid were the charges against her? The government ultimately dropped its case, but Lindauer spent about a year in federal prison.

Lindauer provided an understanding ear when I described multiple Alabama sheriff's deputies entering my home (without showing a warrant or stating they had one), assaulting me (including mace in the face), dragging me over concrete to the back of a patrol car, and taking me to jail for more than five months--all in flagrant violation of First Amendment law that forbids prior restraints in defamation cases.

We discuss my experiences in jail, including an inmate suicide that happened just a few feet from me. We also discuss Near v. Minnesota, the landmark 1931 U.S. Supreme Court case that Alabama judge Claud Nielson repeatedly violated in my case, at the urging of Republican political figure Rob Riley. I tell Lindauer that I'm still under an unlawful permanent injunction that prevents me from discussing certain details from the lawsuit. I note that the case never went before a jury, and my reporting never has been found false or defamatory at trial. In fact, the Riley case never went to trial.

When I say I was "arrested for blogging," I'm not kidding. Near specifically forbids temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions in defamation cases--and yet, I was arrested for allegedly violating such prior restraints and a court order based on them.

Numerous reports have stated that I unwisely ignored a court order, but I told Lindauer that is not true. In fact, I responded to the court by filing a motion to quash service because a deputy conducted a bogus traffic stop in order to hand me court papers, in gross violation of the Fourth Amendment. I was awaiting a ruling on that motion when deputies stormed my garage.

Without being arrested, I told Lindauer, I also would have challenged the unlawful notice we received on a preliminary-injunction hearing and the bizarre and ungrounded inclusion of my wife in the lawsuit--not to mention the basic allegations of defamation. I could not challenge any of that while unlawfully in jail.

Lindauer makes clear to her listeners that this all happened in a civil matter--with a court record sealed from public view--that involved no criminal allegations.

Here is a portion of the program description from the Covert Report Web site. You can listen to an archived version of the interview by clicking on a link at the end of this post:

Today’s guest Alabama blogger, Roger Shuler shares his nightmare of imprisonment after exposing corruption in an old and powerful Alabama political family. . . . In the resulting defamation lawsuit, Shuler was subject to illegal arrest and imprisonment for 5 months, while the Court bullied him to take down those blog postings. Shuler describes getting beaten by police, and how the Courts denied the right to bail,to an attorney, or any discovery and rights to submit his proofs to a jury. This is a scary story, which our listeners need to hear. In all, Shuler got locked in prison for 5 months facing a sealed civil lawsuit— the contents of which he was not allowed to read or be informed of. Shuler is distinguished as the only journalist imprisoned in the whole United States in many years. All of us need to understand the frightening saga, because it’s happening with more regularity than most people currently are aware.

Roger Shuler interview at Covert Report with Susan Lindauer


Anonymous said...

Glad to see that Susan Lindauer is drawing attention to this case. It is scary, for sure.

Anonymous said...

the interview is long but worthwhile. Good job, LS.

Anonymous said...

Alabama probate judges might wish to brush up on federal contempt of court powers

February 9, 2015 By RGK: Alabama probate judges, federal contempt of court, same sex marriage

U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. “Ginny” Granade on Jan. 23 struck down Alabama’s laws banning same-sex marriage in a ruling in one same-sex couple’s lawsuit in Mobile. The judge ruled that probate judges around the state should begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples on Monday Feb. 9 if an appeals court did not issue a stay. No stay has been issued. Alabama probate judges who refuse to follow the order may well be subject to the power of the federal court to hold them in contempt. For a good article laying out the broad powers of a federal district judge to hold individuals in civil or criminal contempt, here is an extensive explanation of those powers.

Acting like a yokel and mouthing off about ludicrous theories of states’ rights is one thing. Defying a specific order of a federal court is quite another.


The injunction issued by the district court states:

Accordingly, the court hereby ORDERS that the Alabama Attorney General
is prohibited from enforcing the Alabama laws which prohibit same-sex marriage.
This injunction binds the defendant and all his officers, agents, servants and
employees, and others in active concert or participation with any of them, who
would seek to enforce the marriage laws of Alabama which prohibit same-sex

See here for full order. Also here for PDF. ORDER Strawser v. Strange (8)


Anonymous said...

Hello there! I am doing a piece of crap in my class on this case. Because of the violation of the fourth Amendment.