Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Why did Rob Riley's lawyer send a letter to my wife, falsely claiming that she was not targeted for arrest?

Carol Shuler, from her Facebook page
After I had been incarcerated for several weeks in late 2013--the fallout from daring to write a blog about legal and political corruption in Alabama--my wife, Carol, received a curious letter from an attorney named Jay Murrill, of the Riley Jackson firm in Homewood.

The firm, of course, is headed by Rob Riley, the son of former governor Bob Riley and the individual (along with lobbyist Liberty Duke) who filed a dubious defamation lawsuit that led to my time behind bars. Murrill was the chief counsel for his boss, apparently because no lawyer from another firm would dare touch a lawsuit that so flagrantly ran contrary to First Amendment principles.

So why was Jay Murrill, who had filed papers asking that Carol and I unlawfully be arrested, writing my wife? He was trying to convince her that the Riley firm had no intention of actually seeking her arrest--even though Murrill's own court documents tell another story.

We've already shown that Rob Riley and Jay Murrill have epic struggles with the truth. (See here and here.) But this might be a falsehood for the ages.

Murrill's letter arrived via U.S. mail, and we have lost our only paper copy. I saw the letter but didn't read it, while my wife read it multiple times because she couldn't believe what she was reading. It was short, and this is the gist of it, based on Carol's memory:

Re: Robert R. Riley Jr., et al v. Roger Shuler, et al

Mrs. Shuler:

We would like to correct an apparent misunderstanding regarding the above-referenced case. Several news reports have indicated you are afraid to leave your home, from fear that you will be arrested. Please know that we never have had any intention of seeking your arrest in this matter.


Jay Murrill

Why did Murrill write the letter? I can only assume he and his Riley Jackson colleagues decided it was a bad public-relations move to be seen as seeking Carol's arrest in a matter that did not involve her. But that's exactly what they were doing--and Murrill's own court papers prove it.

(The words of Shelby County deputies also prove it. On the night of my arrest--while I was sitting in the back of a patrol car with pepper spray dripping all over me--I could hear deputies talking about trying to also apprehend Carol. She was asleep in an upstairs bedroom, and the cops apparently didn't want to call even more attention to themselves by breaking down a door to get to her.

(During the first week I was in jail, deputies made at least three additional visits to our house--all apparent attempts to arrest Carol, and each one failed. The visits only stopped after word about my arrest started circulating in the press.)

As for written proof of Murrill's intentions, let's consider a document styled "Petitioner Robert R. Riley's Petition to Hold Respondents in Contempt." (See document at the end of this post.) This is the primary document where Riley asks the court--under Jay Murrill's signature--to have me arrested, contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law. But Riley was not after just my arrest. The clear language shows he was seeking Carol's arrest, too.

First, her name is listed right under mine as a defendant. Then consider these words from the petition's first paragraph:

Comes now Petitioner Robert R. Riley Jr. and moves this Court to hold Respondents Roger Shuler and Carol T. Shuler in contempt of this Court's September 20, 2013, Temporary Restraining Order (the "TRO") and its October 1, 2013, Order on the Petitions for Preliminary Injunction ("Preliminary Injunction") . . . 

That language clearly seeks to hold me AND Carol in contempt. How nutty is this? I could not lawfully be held in contempt of a TRO and preliminary injunction that amount to prohibited prior restraints under longstanding First Amendment law. But at least I did (and do) write, edit, and administer the Legal Schnauzer blog--and I wrote the blog posts in question. Carol had nothing to do with the blog or the posts.

Now let's consider the last paragraph of Rob Riley's petition, under Jay Murrill's signature:

In light of the foregoing, Petitioner Riley respectfully requests that the Court find that the Respondents are in contempt of the TRO and the Preliminary Injunction and requests that the Court exercise its authority pursuant to Ala. R. Civ. P. 70(A)(e)(2) to require Respondents to comply with this Court's orders. 

Notice again the use of the plural ("Respondents"), referring to both me AND Carol. Also note the reference to Alabama Rule of Civil Procedure 70(A)(e)(2), which holds:

(2) COMMITMENT IN CASES OF CIVIL CONTEMPT. The court may order that a person who had been found to be in civil contempt be committed to the custody of the sheriff until that person purges himself or herself of the contempt by complying with the court's writ, subpoena, process, order, rule, or command.

This rule is about having someone arrested for alleged contempt of court. And Jay Murrill's own words show that he intended to have it applied to me AND Carol.

So why did Murrill lie his fanny off and state in a letter that he never had any intention of seeking Carol's arrest? I can think of only two possible explanations: (1) He and Riley were receiving blow back for seeking my spouse's arrest, with no lawful grounds for doing so; (2) They were trying to convince Carol to let down her guard, so they could then nab her.

If No. 2 was the goal, it didn't work. Carol remained free and was able to drum up national and international press coverage about the trampling of constitutional rights in Shelby County, Alabama--at the direction of attorneys Rob Riley and Jay Murrill.

Does this remain a sensitive topic for Murrill? Apparently so. I sent him the following e-mail on February 19, 2015:

Mr. Murrill:

I understand that while I was in jail, upon the demands of you and Mr. Riley, you sent my wife a letter, assuring her that she was not the target of arrest.

I have seen a copy of that letter and would like to have a copy for my files.

Could you please send a copy via e-mail attachment.

Thank you,

Roger Shuler

When that did not draw a response, I followed up with another e-mail on March 16:

Mr. Murrill:

This is a followup to my request of Feb. 19, asking that you send a copy of a letter you wrote to my wife, assuring her that she was not the target of an arrest.

I do not have a copy of that letter for my files, and this is my second request for you to send me one via e-mail attachment.

Also, would you please send a copy of any affidavit that Mr. Riley filed in the lawsuit against my wife and me. I have a copy of Liberty Duke's affidavit, but I do not have a copy of any similar affidavit from Mr. Riley.

Since you and your client rushed to file a lawsuit against us, and to have me unlawfully thrown in jail, I assume you also will act in a speedy fashion to get these requested documents to me. I ask for receipt by end of workday on Friday, March 20, 2015.

Thank you,

Roger Shuler

When that did not draw a response, I tried again with an e-mail on March 31:

Mr. Murrill:

This is a followup to my requests of Feb. 19 and March 16. In those e-mails, I asked for a copy of the letter you wrote to my wife, assuring her that she was not a target of an arrest. I have not received a copy of that letter, and hereby renew my request for a copy. I have seen that letter, so I know it exists.

I also asked for a copy of any affidavit that your client, Rob Riley, filed in the lawsuit against my wife and me. You also have not sent a copy of any Riley affidavit. Does that mean one does not exist? If so, why did Liberty Duke file an affidavit, while Mr. Riley did not?

One other item that I would like to request: Would you send any and all documents related to the temporary restraining order (TRO)/preliminary injunction that Mr. Riley and Ms. Duke sought against me. Please enclose any proof that I received actual notice of the TRO by personal service or otherwise, as required by Rule 65 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP). Also, please enclose a copy of any security bond (noting the amount) that was filed with the TRO/preliminary injunction application, again as required by ARCP 65.

As you know, the court file in this case was sealed for a number of months, at your client's request, meaning my access to documents either was limited or nonexistent. In the interest of fairness, I trust that you now will respond promptly to my requests for the above documents.

Thank you,

Roger Shuler

I discovered the following on my own: (1) Rob Riley did not file an affidavit; (2) He and Liberty Duke did file security bonds; (3) The file appears to include no evidence that I was personally served, as required by law, with either the TRO or the preliminary injunction. It would seem hard to violate orders that you did not lawfully receive.

The record shows that Rob Riley and Jay Murrill were quick to invade our lives, even though they had zero grounds for doing so under the law. But when questions are headed in their direction--in an effort to determine to what degree they engaged in falsehoods--they are not so quick to respond. In fact, they don't respond at all, and essentially go into hiding.

Now, why would that be?


Don said...

Uh, maybe the lawyer was lying?

legalschnauzer said...

Good one, Don. Short and sweet, and you nailed it.

Burt on the Bluff said...

Schnauzer, you sure are a pain in the ass to the people who piss you off.

legalschnauzer said...

Thank you, Burt. I will take that as a compliment.

Brian Keith O'Hara said...

I am glad that you are too. Socrates was the same way, they tried to silence him too. Now there isn't an educated who doesn't know who he was, 2500 years later. Not many people can make that claim.

Burt on the Bluff said...

I meant it as a compliment.

Anonymous said...

Who planned all this? I'm so angry when I read this!

Eliseo Weinstein said...

This is the first time that I have ever heard of such a situation like this one. I am still trying to understand why the lawyer would send her a letter like that. Was it to show to the press? Was it to show he was human? I do not for the life of me understand what would cause him to do that.

legalschnauzer said...

They tried to arrest Carol the same night they arrested me; I heard the cops talking about it. Carol managed to avoid being kidnapped and got the story of what happened to me into the press. My guess is that made the thugs nervous, so they sent this letter trying to show they never intended to arrest her, which is false.