Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Did probe of former judge Scott Vowell and Sterne Agee executive Henry Lynn help spark my arrest?

Scott Vowell and Henry Lynn
 at Birmningham's Lyric Theatre
How deep is corruption at the Birmingham investment firm Sterne Agee. Well, the company is going for what might be called a "trifecta of sleaze."

First, Sterne Agee and former Chairman/CEO James Holbrook Jr. are named in the 23-count indictment against Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn).  Count 17 of the Hubbard indictment alleges that the speaker unlawfully solicited or received a $150,000 investment in his company, Craftmaster Printers, from Holbrook and/or Sterne Agee. Second, Holbrook is the subject of a federal investigation related to his "possible misuse of holding company assets," including airplanes, boats, hunting clubs, and condominiums. Third, evidence suggests that individuals connected to Sterne Agee might have played a role in bookend lawsuits, from Republican political operatives Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison, that led to my unlawful five-month incarceration and a dubious foreclosure on our home.

How could Sterne Agee intersect with the Legal Schnauzer story? Well, it starts with an unusually close relationship between J. Scott Vowell, former presiding judge of Jefferson County, and Henry Lynn Jr., former chairman and current chairman emeritus at Sterne Agee. Lynn is one of the firm's longest serving employees. It also involves Birmingham attorney Bill Baxley, who has strong family ties to Sterne Agee and just happens to represent Garrison in her defamation lawsuit against me.

In fall 2013, I received tips from multiple sources that the nature of the Vowell-Lynn relationship was well known among members of the bar in Jefferson County, and it contributed greatly to the corruption that festered on Vowell's watch. Specifically, sources said, the Vowell-Lynn relationship was one reason hunting-club corruption was allowed to run rampant in Jefferson County's domestic-relations court. (Note that the federal investigation of Holbrook relates, in part, to hunting clubs connected to Sterne Agee.)

After retiring from the bench, Vowell helped start the firm of Vowell and Goldsmith, which focuses on alternative dispute resolution, mediation, arbitration, and private judging. Vowell's wife, Cameron McDonald Vowell, is part of the Spain family for which several buildings at UAB are named. Cameron Vowell long has been a booster and powerful player in UAB circles, and our sources say she, too, has a number of unusual relationships in the Birmingham area.

Based on tips from knowledgeable sources, I began to investigate the Vowell-Lynn story and called Henry Lynn at his Sterne Agee office on August 15, 2013. My line of questioning seemed to fluster Mr. Lynn, and he hung up on me several times. (I have audio of those conversations.) Within minutes after my aborted discussion with Henry Lynn, I checked my blog statistics site and noticed someone (or several someones) from Stern Agee poring over my blog.

James Holbrook Jr. at Sterne Agee
Who might that have been? It could have been Henry Lynn himself, of course. But our guess is that a Sterne Agree broker named Louis W. Baxley was involved. Our research indicates Louis Baxley worked at Sterne Agee for roughly eight years and was there in fall 2013, before taking a position with Pincor Financial Services Corporation in January 2015.

Why does this matter? Louis Baxley is Bill Baxley's son. And on August 16, 2013, one day after my conversation with Henry Lynn, I received my first communication from Bill Baxley, threatening to sue me on Jessica Medeiros Garrison's behalf. Baxley alleged that I had published defamatory information about Garrison's relationship with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, for whom she had served as campaign manager. Baxley issued a followup letter dated August 19, 2013, so he was in rapid-fire mode for some reason. (See Baxley's August 16 and August 19 letters at the end of this post.)

Let's follow a brief timeline of events:

August 15, 2013--I conduct an aborted phone interview with Henry Lynn, of Sterne Agee, regarding his relationship with Scott Vowell and its impact on Jefferson County Court corruption.

August 16, 2013--Bill Baxley writes a letter threatening to sue me over alleged defamation of Jessica Medeiros Garrison. Baxley's son, Louis Baxley, works at Sterne Agee.

August 19, 2013--Bill Baxley writes a second threatening letter regarding Jessica Garrison.

August 27, 2013--According to a report at Alabama Political Reporter, Garrison files a lawsuit against me on this date.

Was the Garrison lawsuit really about "defamation," or did Bill Baxley file it in retaliation for my inquiries regarding Henry Lynn, Scott and Cameron Vowell, and others connected with Sterne Agee? Was Sterne Agee a particularly sensitive topic because, as we now know, the firm is part of multiple criminal investigations?

For the record, I also was investigating, at about the same time, Jessica Garrison's business connections to Erik Davis Harp, a Tuscaloosa native who was indicted as one of two ringleaders in an offshore sports gambling ring. Based in Panama, the ring reportedly was bringing in $20 million a month and had ties to the Gambino and Genovese crime families before authorities in Queens, New York, stepped in. Was my reporting on that subject making powerful Alabama interests nervous? Do some of those interests have ties to Bill Baxley, and is that why he was assigned to file a lawsuit that, on its surface is about "defamation" of Jessica Garrison, but really is about something else?

A source told me in fall 2013 that my inquiry into the Erik David Harp case, and his ties to Jessica Garrison, was causing alarm among certain Alabama elites--and that continued research on the subject could put my physical well-being at risk. Exactly seven weeks after that warning, an Alabama deputy beat me up in my own home, doused me with pepper spray, and hauled me to the Shelby County Jail for a five-month stay--supposedly because of contempt of court related to Rob Riley's defamation lawsuit.

Deputy Chris Blevins showed no warrant that night, did not say he had a warrant, and did not state his reason for being on my property. A letter from Birmingham attorney David Gespass, after he had reviewed the sealed court file in the Riley case, indicates we had not been served with either the Riley complaint or summons at the time of my arrest. That means the court had no authority to hear the case or issue any orders against me--in fact, there officially was no lawsuit, which makes my arrest a kidnapping.

How could this happen in a society that supposedly is governed by the "rule of law"? We are getting close to some answers about that, but this much is certain: My investigation into Henry Lynn, the Vowells, and Sterne Agee--and Erik Davis Harp-- is continuing. Audio of my conversation with Henry Lynn, plus digital records in the immediate aftermath of those calls, strongly suggest powerful interests found my reporting on sensitive matters to be alarming and most unwelcome.

(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

Lots of "old money" Birmingham folks have stored their fortunes with Sterne Agee, and I hear a lot of folks are nervous because the firm is a wreck right now.

legalschnauzer said...

Actually, @8:49, I didn't mention all of the problems Sterne Agee has. Former CFO Brian Barze has filed a lawsuit against the firm and Holbrook, alleging fraud, breach of contract, defamation, and more. I probably will do a separate post on that. It shines a lot of light on what's going on at SA.

Anonymous said...

You interviewed Henry Lynn about his relationship with Scott Vowell on one day and got a threatening letter from Bill Baxley the next? Hmmmm, that's interesting.

legalschnauzer said...

Yep. And Baxley's son worked at Sterne Agee. And next thing you know, I'm kidnapped and thrown in jail, and my wife and I are going through a foreclosure on our home of 25 years. I find the timing of all that very interesting.

Actually, I don't think what happened to Carol and me can be attributed to one person or entity. I think a number of shadowy players were involved, but Rob Riley and Bill Baxley and Jessica Garrison and Liberty Duke obviously are in the mix.

Moose Jaw said...

Sterne Agee money flows freely in Mountain Brook.

Anonymous said...

Another plot against you. How many people out there are trying to get you? I think you have named in the last year at least over 100. Could it be that you just have a paranoid imigination?

legalschnauzer said...

I don't know about my "paranoid imigination," but you have a spelling problem.

Anonymous said...

You must think a plot is going on--or something is fishy--because you admit to reading all of the LS's posts on the subject. If you are convinced nothing fishy went on, why are you reading up on it?

If I'm convinced Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK on his own, why would I read a book that advances various theories about what really happened, that go way beyond Oswald? I wouldn't.

Anonymous said...

Paranoia is a word that denotes unfounded, insane, delusional fear or mental illness. If you were in a jungle in Viet Nam, and feared the enemy was out there and may be hiding behind any tree with a gun, is that considered paranoia? No - it's justified suspicion and reasonable fearfulness. Without this safety device, a person couldn't survive in hostile situations.

Because certain people openly brought charges and were in some way affiliated justifies any suspicions of conspiracy on Roger's part. All it takes for a conspiracy is two people colluding in a situation to destroy or harass or harm a third person. That those people involved in Roger's persecution were affiliated and even with others in business or politics or church or family justifies any suspicions that all could have easily discussed his case.

I doubt they would come clean if you asked any of them–– all being clever enough to remain silent at all costs.

Enough of the insane/false accusation games. That tactic has been used so much it's lost its traction.

Truth matters and eventually truth is going to win.

Anonymous said...

@2:34 I can't speak for the other commenter, but I read this blog for the same reason people read the tabloids, it's entertaining. I agree with @10:12, when you keep naming names because of a coincidence, that doesn't proof anything and that's not journalism. It would be easier for Roger to just say the entire Republican Party had a conference and plotted to take Roger down. That seems to be where Roger is headed anyway. @7:53 You are correct that truth matters, but I'm not convinced that Roger's version is the truth. Roger had a chance to go to court and prove some of the allegations he has made, but choose to ignore them. Now he has a $3.5 million judgment against his, but it's not his fault. It's those dirty Republicans.

legalschnauzer said...

You have a few problems with the facts and the law, @11:14, especially in your last 2-3 sentences. As for the facts, I assume you are talking there about the Jessica Medeiros Garrison case, and I didn't ignore anything. In fact, I answered that complaint from jail and appeared multiple times in the case from jail. The default judgment is due to be overturned, by law, but who knows what the court actually will decide.

As for the law, being the defendant in a lawsuit is not an opportunity to go to court and prove anything. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, and she hasn't done that because there has been no trial--only a default that occurred because I was thrown in jail for five months and then forced to deal with a foreclosure (likely unlawful) on our house.

I'm guessing it becomes much easier to "win" your defamation case when your opponent has been thrown in jail and has his home of 25 years go through a foreclosure. That pretty much makes it impossible for your opponent to defend himself or bring a counterclaim that might force you to answer uncomfortable questions under oath and produce documents that you would rather stay sealed or out of public view.

I'm sure if that happened to you, though, you wouldn't be the least bit suspicious.

While I'm at it, I will give you a few communications tips. In this brief comment, you make three points that are so old and tired that they are likely to cause even alert readers to nod off. Here they are:

* "I read this blog because it's entertaining" -- I've heard that umpteen times, and so have my readers. I, for one, know it's not true. You aren't fooling anyone, so try being direct and honest. You read this blog because something about it makes you uncomfortable. Now, we've got that truth out of the way.

* "That's not journalism" or "Roger's not a journalist" -- Again, that's off-the-charts old and tired. My readers know I have a degree in journalism, with more than 30 years of professional experience, so you still aren't fooling anyone. Try being honest with your readers, even though I know that's a foreign concept for you.

* "The entire Republican Party plotted to take Roger down" -- This is the kind of absurdist thinking that comes when someone has run out of things to say--or never had anything to contribute in the discussion anyway. I've seen it many times, and again, you aren't fooling anyone. It's just a childish putdown that does nothing to advance your cause, whatever that is.

Anonymous said...

I love how you turn put your spin and beliefs on things. The way you keep throwing names out as part of this "conspiracy", you will have the entire Republican Party by the time your done. You make guesses as to what people meant without a shred of proof. Your blog is at best an opinion piece and opinions aren't fact and your opinion of me being uncomfortable is incorrect. It's like saying I read Harry Potter because I wanted to be a wizard. Just because Roger typed it, doesn't make it true.

When you say "I'm sure if that happened to you, though, you wouldn't be the least bit suspicious." I wouldn't type something for everyone on the internet to read unless I could prove it, not just speculate. When a deputy came to the door, I would answer it and take the paperwork. I would have shown up in court and handled business. I may lose, but I would take the swing. To continue my baseball analogy, you seem to be in your first year of pitch baseball where you don't swing and then expect the T be brought out. The odds of me being in jail are slim. As far as the foreclosure, there is a fact that all foreclosures occur in homes with mortgages on them. Given the fact I don't have a mortgage, it is unlikely I will have to move because of a foreclosure. This is not an attempt to say I am better than anyone else, but I chose to live in a smaller home than most in my income bracket would so I could pay it off quicker.

A person with a medical degree, who was worked 30 years in a hospital, who is no longer employed, now practices bloodletting to heal people. Would you still say he is a medical doctor practicing medicine? The answer to that question is no. Degrees and experience from the past don't always mean anything in the present.

Anonymous said...

If the people involved in Roger's case against him are Republicans, and if the police system that arrested and abused him was elected or being operated by Republicans, and if any one involved in adverse court rulings was Republican, one could naturally deduce that multiple people who happened to be Republicans with Republican interests––– not the Republican Party–– had an interest in Roger's destruction. Just sayin'–– truth matters.

Political asylum is available outside this country. I believe Australia and Ireland are two of the countries who welcome and protect Americans in danger.

legalschnauzer said...

I thought you said you read the blog for fun, @8:13, now you say you read it for the opinions. Here's a challenge for you: Readers can evaluate my work because they know who I am, and they know my background. They can't evaluate your comments because they have no idea who you are. You claim that I'm not a journalist, that what I write isn't true. But what are your credentials for making such statements? Tell us who you are, with some info about your background--your education, where you work or worked, etc. You can do it here, or you can do it via my private e-mail account at I'm sure you believe in fundamental fairness, and the only fair way to do this is for the two of us to be on a level playing field, for folks to know who you are and any affiliations you might have. On behalf of Legal Schnauzer readers everywhere, I thank you in advance for said information and your contributions to this discussion.

legalschnauzer said...

Not surprisingly, @8:13, has refused to identify himself or tell us anything that would allow us to evaluate his claims. He more or less says that he just wants to educate my readers about the flimsy nature of my reporting. Well, none of us can be educated by someone who is too big a coward to share his identify and credentials. Mr. 8:13 also fails to realize that this is my blog, and I set the ground rules, which aren't many. But one of them is this: No one is going to come here and anonymously spread false information. If you want to challenge me, fine. But be prepared to identify yourself and your background, so I (and others) can evaluate where you are coming from. This blog is about information, not misinformation. And Mr. 8:13 clearly is engaging in misinformation, which is why he refuses to tell us who he is. It's also why his comments are being eliminated.

This post includes 15 links (by my unofficial count) to source material, along with two embedded documents, yet 8:13 says this is a work of opinion. That's pure nonsense, from someone who has an agenda and won't identify himself. If 8:13 wants to "educate" people, he can start his own blog. But he won't be spreading his anonymous garbage here.

legalschnauzer said...

Keep sending comments all you want, @8:13 ("John Snow"), but they won't see the light of day here until you ID yourself. You seem to be trying to pick an argument, and I would be happy to have an argument with you--but only if I know who you are. That's a matter of basic fairness, which you apparently don't believe in. Therefore, I suggest you do your "reading for fun" somewhere else.

Rob Riley said...

Hi!!! How are you doing ol' chum?