Duke filed an affidavit denying the allegations, but a check of court records in Shelby County, Alabama, shows Riley did not file a similar affidavit. In fact, the record indicates Riley never made a sworn statement denying the allegations.
(Note: I remain under a permanent injunction, issued by retired Circuit Judge Claud Neilson, and that prevents me from providing specifics here about the allegations. The injunction is unlawful and not supported by facts because the information in question never was found to be defamatory at trial. That's because there was no trial. To make life a bit simpler, I will abide by Neilson's order. Anyone not familiar with specifics in the case can check out a New York Times story on the subject. Also, Liberty Duke's affidavit can be read at the end of this post, and it addresses the specifics.)
Speaking of the Times article, it states that both Riley and Duke denied the allegations in my reporting. But reporter Campbell Robertson doesn't bother to state that only Duke filed a sworn statement on the matter; Riley never did.
The Times is not alone in making this omission. A number of news outlets made the same mistake, including some whose reporting otherwise was excellent. Al.com, the largest news organization in the state, also reported that Riley denied the allegations--without noting that his denials never were under oath. A few Web sites reported that Riley and Duke filed affidavits, but that is not true--the court record shows no Riley affidavit was filed.
Why would Liberty Duke file an affidavit, while Rob Riley did not? Does it have something to do with Riley's status as a lawyer, while Duke is a mere lobbyist? To help answer that question, we turn to the ugly history of our old "friend," William E. Swatek, who surely stands as one of the sleaziest lawyers in Alabama history.
In the course of an employment case involving a former Pelham police officer, opposing counsel caught Swatek surreptitiously tape recording them during a break in depositions. Swatek stated under oath in a bar investigation that the recording was his client's idea, and he knew nothing about it. The actual recording produced evidence that showed Swatek was lying, that he actually had planted the recorder and determined how best to use it. Swatek faced a criminal trial on perjury charges and was acquitted--even though a transcript from the recording showed he clearly was guilty. (You can view the transcript at the end of this post.)
Swatek had his law license suspended for 60 days, but the acquittal on a felony criminal charge allowed him to avoid disbarment.
The bottom line? A lawyer, such as Rob Riley, can face serious repercussions for lying under oath--including the loss of his license to practice law. For a regular citizen, such as lobbyist Liberty Duke, the potential repercussions are much less severe. In fact, as we noted in an earlier post, perjury almost certainly is the easiest crime to get away with in the United States. It hardly ever is investigated, perpetrators are extremely unlikely to face prosecution, and we suspect the conviction of a regular citizen is likely to produce little in the way of serious punishment.
I will let readers come to their own conclusions about those questions. But this much is clear: The well-publicized "denials" in the Riley/Duke lawsuit are not all that strong, especially when you consider that the central character--Rob Riley--never denied the allegations under oath.