Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Are Alabama mainstream journalists resentful enough to hack our blog and delete Ashley Madison post?

Rob Holbert, publisher of Langiappe
Evidence suggests that a faction of mainstream journalists in Alabama resent Legal Schnauzer for breaking the story of Governor Robert Bentley's affair with adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason and for outing reporter Charles J. Dean as a customer of the extramarital-affair Web site Ashley Madison.

Was someone connected to the MSM butt-hurt enough to hack our blog and cause the original post about Dean and Ashley Madison to disappear for several hours? The answer, at this point, appears to be yes.

The September 8 post, titled " reporter Charles J. Dean manages to merge the Robert Bentley and Ashley Madison sex scandals," disappeared from both the blog and the internal composing/editing page, where all posts (published and unpublished) are stored. That suggests to me that someone went out of his way to hack our blog, remove the Dean/Ashley Madison story, and probably send a message about future efforts to report on such discomfiting issues. In more than eight years of publishing Legal Schnauzer, this is the first time I've had a post disappear from multiple locations, so I'm still trying to figure out how it could happen.

If the message was supposed to be, "Schnauzer, we are trying to intimidate you into avoiding the Ashley Madison subject," it's not going to work. With the help of several tech-savvy sources, I was able to republish the post in question and take steps to help ensure that similar hacks are less likely to happen in the future.

Just how butt-hurt are the MSMers that they got beat on the Bentley/Mason story, while one of their own was outed for creating an Ashley Madison sex scandal of his own? It's hard to say for sure, but the best indicator might come from an article titled "Schnauzer puts bite on journalist," recently published at Mobile-area weekly Langiappe.

You might think that a weekly newspaper would publish news in an "alternative" fashion, the kind not often found in the daily press. But you apparently would be wrong. Our sources in south Alabama say Langiappe is dedicated more to kissing the collective behinds of the corporate establishment than to bringing any real insight that might upset the status quo.

Rob Holbert is the publisher of Langiappe, and his commentary on my reporting seems to be an example of "don't rock the boat journalism" at its finest. Holbert's piece contains so much nonsense it's impossible to address it all. But let's examine a few of the lowlights. Here are a few of Holbert's pearls, in bold, followed by my response:

* "Robert Shuler, who writes a blog called The Legal Schnauzer, went to great lengths this week to personally attack reporter Charles Dean, accusing him of being named in the recently released Ashley Madison files."

Holbert establishes his journalistic "bona fides" right away by getting my name wrong. Then he characterizes it as a "personal attack" to report accurately that Chuck Dean's name is, in fact, on the Ashley Madison list for Alabama, which has run on numerous Web sites. It's not a matter of me "accusing" Chuck Dean of anything. I contacted him prior to publication and gave him an opportunity to comment or be interviewed regarding the Ashley Madison story. Dean did not respond, so even he has not denied the accuracy of the story.

* "In his article (about the Bentley/Mason affair), Dean referred to the rumor coming from radio and “blogs of dubious credibility,” something that apparently got the schnauzer’s hackles up. For his efforts, Dean was treated to a classic blast from Shuler this past Tuesday in which he claims Dean’s name appeared in the Ashley Madison document dump and offers it as a reason the veteran reporter might not have immediately jumped with both feet into the schnauzer’s unsourced, undocumented claims of an affair between the two."

Holbert conveniently fails to mention that Dean's own news organization has treated the Bentley/Mason story seriously, uncovering important information about apparent payments to Mason via a nonprofit and calling on the governor to address issues related to the affair in a public manner. As for the sourcing of my story, it was attributed to sources who wished to remain anonymous out of concern about possible retaliation. It's likely that both Holbert and Dean have used anonymous sources before, so both should know that doesn't mean a story is "unsourced" or "undocumented."

* "I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing how airtight the Ashley Madison documents are as journalistic sources, but even if someone’s name did appear on the list, the time, circumstances and outcome of any activity aren’t clear. Shuler’s reporting of the matter as fact shows once again why those who purport to be “real” journalists should steer clear of Shuler as a primary source of information."

Holbert is quick to criticize my reporting, but he apparently can't be bothered to actually read it. Of the two individuals I've reported being connected to Ashley Madison--Dean and Bradley Arant lawyer Rob Campbell--I went way beyond just saying their names are on a list. I provided details from their accounts, including either work or home addresses, and I gave both an opportunity to comment prior to publication, to deny the accuracy of the information if they had some way to show that, in fact, it was untrue. As for "real" journalists who might be inclined to use me as a primary source of information, Chuck Dean's own employer has done that. I was first to name Mason as Gov. Bentley's paramour, and soon followed with a story titled "Who is Rebekah Caldwell Mason?"

* "In his attack on Dean, Shuler quickly brushed off any questions the rest of us on the World Wide Web might have about the veracity of what he’s burned pixels on over the years. He claims that in his 35-year career as a journalist he’s only been sued twice and both times by Republican operatives, as if that proves he was right. It would be hard to imagine who else might sue him since he typically only writes about Republican operatives having illicit affairs or engaging in sexual behavior that would fly in the face of their squeaky-clean, family-values images."

This is the usual pablum with which right wingers try to attack a blog they have not been able to silence. It's a reference to defamation lawsuits brought against me by GOP operatives Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison, within about a month of each other, in fall 2013. My response is simple: An Alabama jury has never found my reporting, in either case, to be false or defamatory. That's because Riley never sought a jury trial, and Garrison did not seek a jury trial in her initial filings--she did so only after I had sought a jury trial in my answer. In other words, neither Riley nor Garrison wanted a jury of their peers to hear their claims; they wanted compromised judges to rule in their favor, regardless of what the facts and the law might be. In the highlighted section above, Holbert proves he knows very little about defamation law. His "as if that proves he was right" line shows a profound ignorance of defamation law--in fact, of law in general. The burden of proof in any lawsuit, including one involving alleged defamation, is on the plaintiffs (Riley and Duke). They must make a prima facie showing that my reporting was false and defamatory or their cases, by law, are kicked out at summary judgment. In both cases, the plaintiffs never came close to meeting their burden because there was no discovery, and thus no evidence that my reporting was false. The issue in the defamation case is not whether I, the defendant, can prove I was right (although there is no doubt I could via my reporting and discovery), but whether the plaintiffs can prove I was wrong. Until they meet that burden--and neither Riley nor Garrison came close--I don't have to do much of anything to defend myself. Again, Holbert burns plenty of pixels on a defamation matter when it's clear he has no clue how the law works.

* "Do I doubt some of that [hypocritical behavior] happens? Of course not. People are people. But Shuler goes after his political enemies with such reckless gusto.

"There are some real doozies, like the nude photos [of] former Alabama Attorney General Bill Prior supposedly took for a magazine when he was a young buck. And, of course, those affair claims that got him sued into the ground — a $3.5 million judgment — and jailed for five months after he refused to sit for a scheduled deposition. In one of his stories, Shuler claimed Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and a campaign aide had an affair that produced a child, an accusation both denied.

Talk about doozies. Holbert puts his ignorance on such display here that it's hard to know where to begin. First, he claims that I go after my "political enemies" with "reckless gusto." I'm a journalist, not a politician--I don't have political enemies. Anyone who has followed this blog closely knows I have taken a number of Democrats to task, as well as Republicans. As for my reporting being "reckless," Holbert can't be bothered to provide a shred of proof, not one example, to support that claim.

Lagniappe Mobile

Holbert mentions former AG Bill Pryor (again, Holbert has problems with spelling) and the current U.S. judge's ties to 1990s gay pornography. Does Holbert offer anything to suggest my reporting on the Pryor was inaccurate? Nope. In fact, Holbert doesn't even claim it's inaccurate.

Holbert then dips into "bizarro world," in the section I've highlighted. It's as if the publisher/writer went out to lunch and had way too many cocktails. He references a $3.5-million judgment (in the Garrison case) without saying it was a default judgment that had zero support in fact or law. Then he claims I was jailed for five months, apparently for "refusing" to sit for a scheduled deposition in the Garrison case. This reference can only be to the Garrison case because there were no scheduled depositions in the Rob Riley case. But Holbert seems blissfully unaware that my unlawful incarceration--which was reported by national and international news outlets--was related to the Riley case; it had nothing to do with the Garrison case.

Holbert then claims I reported that Attorney General Luther Strange fathered a child with Garrison, his former campaign aide. Holbert's claim has a slight problem--it isn't true. I've never reported that Strange was the father of Garrison's child, and a simple search on this blog would show that.

In fact, court records show that almost all of the $3.5-million default judgment in the Garrison case is based on claims she and Strange apparently made in court--when I was not present, and they were not challenged--that I had reported Strange was the father of Garrison's child.

In essence, the $3.5-million default judgment is built almost entirely on a lie. But Rob Holbert can't be bothered to find that out.

How to summarize? Holbert obviously can't spell, and he apparently is too lazy to educate himself about the subjects upon which he pontificates. Why would anybody take such a "journalist" seriously? I have no idea.

Let's return to our original question: Who hacked Legal Schnauzer and removed the post about Charles J. Dean and Ashley Madison? The answer remains unclear, but I suspect neither Dean nor Holbert is sharp enough to do it on his own. Could someone with a bit of tech know-how have done it on the journalists' behalf? I would say that is possible.

How's this for irony. Numerous reports have indicated that the hack the of the Ashley Madison Web site involved criminal activity and could have a far-reaching impact on how individuals feel about providing personal information on the Web.

If that's the case, it stands to reason that a hack on Legal Schnauzer also would involve criminal behavior. Since the hack seems designed to intimidate journalists who might dare report on sensitive topics, it also could have far-reaching social implications--not to mention implications for the First Amendment rights of a free press, supposedly guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Does that mean we need to report the apparent hack to authorities? We are considering that, and other options, at this moment.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In reaching a divorce settlement with his wife of 50 years, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley remains deceitful

Gov. Robert Bentley and
Rebekah Caldwell Mason
How bad have things gotten for Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, now that the public understands the 72-year-old Republican dumped his wife of 50 years for Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a 43-year-old married adviser who has three children? The governor cannot even announce a divorce settlement from Dianne Bentley without coming across as deceitful.

The governor's office yesterday announced the settlement, and it came four weeks after Dianne Bentley filed a divorce complaint, alleging the marriage had suffered an "irretrievable breakdown."

Nowhere in reports of the settlement is mention of the real reason for the divorce--that Bentley is going through a late "mid-life crisis," falling madly in love with a woman almost 30 years his junior and dumping his wife in a shameful manner. This comes from a politician who consistently has touted his Bible-thumping ways and overt Christian faith.

Where does major deception enter the picture? Consider this from an Associated Press report on the settlement:

The settlement was filed Monday, just four weeks after the first lady filed for divorce, saying their marriage had suffered an "irretrievable breakdown." The governor said he has asked a judge to unseal the case file so the public and media can see it.

"Today, Dianne and I have reached a mutual agreement in our proceedings. I have asked Judge Philip Lisenby to unseal settlement documents so the public and the media will have full access to it. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. I am truly blessed and deeply honored to serve as your governor."
A judge sealed the divorce file from public view three days after it was filed at the request of the Bentleys.

First, you will notice that the story says two different things. In the first highlighted area above, AP reporter Kim Chandler writes that Bentley has asked a judge to unseal "the case file," presumably the entire case file. In the second highlighted area, Bentley is quoted as saying he asked Judge Philip Lisenby to "unseal settlement documents," which presumably would leave the rest of the case sealed.

Bentley, it seems, can't keep his story straight--or Alabama journalists can't get it straight, or both. Either way, it's highly likely that the case file will say absolutely nothing about Rebekah Caldwell Mason or the real reasons behind the divorce.

We already know that Dianne Bentley's original complaint contained boilerplate language that is used to start many divorces and often reveals nothing. Now that the case has settled so quickly, you can rest assured that the settlement papers also will contain dry, unrevelatory language.

In fact, an report just out confirms that the documents have been unsealed and revealed pretty much zilch.

This does tell us one thing of substance: Dianne Bentley probably got a pretty nice settlement, in exchange for making sure the case went away quickly and contained no documents that would shine light on Robert Bentley's abominable behavior in recent months. This probably means the governor intends to fight and claw to keep his exalted position.

Obviously, I'm not a divorce lawyer--and thankfully, I've never been through a divorce myself--but I've seen enough files to know how such cases often play out. Any information that cuts to the core of real issues behind a divorce are likely to come from the discovery process. That generally includes answers to interrogatories (which can be quite probing in divorce cases), transcripts of depositions (given under oath), and material produced during requests for production of documents.

This third category could have been particularly dicey for Gov. Bentley. Imagine if Dianne Bentley had requested copies of e-mails, phone records, and text messages between the governor and Ms. Mason. That likely would have revealed the real Robert Bentley to a public that has been duped into believing he is a man of genuine faith and high morals--and elected him twice primarily because it was believed that, contrary to his predecessor (Bob Riley), he would at least behave in an honest, honorable fashion.

If the divorce case had gone on long enough for the file to contain e-mails and texts between Gov. Bentley and Ms. Mason, is there any chance it ever would have been unsealed? The answer to that question, in my view, is an overwhelming no.

So Robert Bentley is trying to convince the public that he is promoting transparency by asking for the court file to be unsealed--when, in fact, he's pulling another con on the citizens of Alabama.

On top of that, Robert Bentley proves himself to be a coward. He's happy to have a divorce file unsealed, once he knows it will contain nothing of substance, when it won't reveal that he truly is a creep, a lowlife, and a cheater.

Bentley has sunk so low that he almost makes Bob Riley look honorable by comparison--and I didn't think that was possible.

Monday, September 28, 2015

California journalist Peter B. Collins provides in-depth report on the violent, unlawful eviction that led Missouri sheriff deputies to break my wife's arm

San Francisco-based journalist and radio host Peter B. Collins has provided the most detailed report so far on the unlawful eviction that started as threatening and turned to violent, ending with Missouri deputies breaking my wife's left arm and bruising her badly.

In a post at his Web site, titled "Journalist Roger Shuler Gives Detailed Account of Recent Eviction That Brutalized His Wife," Collins becomes the first third-party journalist to examine the events that led to Carol and me being handcuffed, having an assault rifle and various handguns trained on us, having many of our personal belongings apparently stolen by the landlord's "eviction crew," and having Carol's humerus (the large bone in the upper arm) "snapped in two" near the elbow, according to a doctor who examined her.

Carol's injuries were so severe that they required treatment from a trauma surgeon, rather than an orthopedic specialist who might handle most broken-bone cases.

This all happened when neither law enforcement nor the crew from landlord Cowherd Construction had lawful grounds to enter our apartment. That's because I had filed a notice of appeal that puts an automatic stay on eviction proceedings under Missouri law.

Collins interviewed me at length about the brutal encounter with Missouri "officers of the law" and the full podcast (along with a preview clip) can be heard at his Web site. From the Collins post:

Roger Shuler, the journalist who has exposed deep corruption in Alabama, shares the painful story of the unlawful eviction by heavily-armed deputies that left his wife with a shattered arm and other injuries. Regular listeners know Shuler as the investigative reporter who has exposed corrupt politicians and courts in Alabama, and that he spent 5 months in jail on bogus defamation and contempt charges starting in October, 2013. Shortly after his release, the Shulers' home in Birmingham was foreclosed, and they moved to Springfield, Missouri, in the summer of 2014.

On September 9, 5 or 6 deputies under the personal direction of Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott burst into the Shuler's apartment with assault weapons drawn, and first handcuffed Roger and Carol. Later, the handcuffs were removed, and Carol was told she could enter the apartment to retrieve personal items. Two or more deputies jumped her, slammed her to the ground, and twisted both arms behind her back.

Shuler reports that Sheriff Arnott exclaimed that Carol had assaulted a deputy, while Roger observed no contact or provocation. Carol was taken away in a squad car, and after repeated complaints about her broken left arm, they finally took her to a hospital, where she spent several days and required major surgery to patch her shattered arm. She suffered other injuries, including serious bruising on her other arm.

How far outside the law was this whole series of events? Collins provides insight:

Shuler tells us that they were current with the rent when the landlord unilaterally moved to terminate their lease. The eviction occurred before a ten-day grace period had elapsed, and despite a legal appeal that had put a hold on any eviction proceedings.

And he says flatly, "There's absolutely no question in my mind" that the eviction is retribution for his ongoing reporting about Alabama corruption--most recently breaking the story about the sexual affair of current Alabama governor Robert Bentley that led his wife of 50 years to file for divorce.

The Shulers lost most of their property in the eviction, some items were stolen by employees of the landlord. They are living in a fleabag motel with just the clothes on their backs. If you can make a donation of any size, please visit the Legal Schnauzer blog.

Collins correctly notes that we are in need of financial assistance, especially in light of recent events. Does our reporting here matter? Our blog played a major role in bringing down wife-beating federal judge Mark Fuller, whose corrupt actions from the bench led to the unlawful convictions of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. In fact, I think it's safe to say that no other blog or news site has provided as much in-depth coverage of the Siegelman case as Legal Schnauzer--and Siegelman remains a federal prison in what likely is the most notorious political prosecution in American history.

Jim Arnott, sheriff of
 Greene County, Missouri
We broke the story of Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who touts his family values at one moment while having engaged in extramarital activities at others. That was a story that the mainstream media, especially, intentionally sat on and covered up.

Most recently, we broke the story of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, another so-called Christian and Republican who wears his faith on his sleeve, but has engaged in an extramarital affair with married adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, leading Bentley's wife to file for divorce after 50 years of marriage. That's another story the mainstream press almost certainly would have sat on if we had not broken it here at Legal Schnauzer.

Our goal is to continue such ground-breaking coverage--showing that our courts are hopelessly compromised and many "conservative" political and legal figures are not what they appear. We also are focusing heavily on perhaps the most important domestic story of the past year--the militarization, corruption, brutality, and disrespect for civil rights that seemingly have taken over numerous law-enforcement agencies around the country. We've even seen signs that deputies in Madison County, Alabama, have resorted to a "revenge beatdown" (felony assault) and possible murder.

Carol and I now have firsthand experience with Missouri deputies who committed a felony assault that left her with a shattered arm. We also know what it's like to have deputies burst through the door, with roughly a half dozen weapons drawn, including at least one assault rifle. With five more heavily armed deputies bursting into our apartment at the same time, what if one had bumped into another who just happened to have his finger on the trigger of an assault weapon, while it was pointed at Carol or me? One or both of us would be dead.

If you would like to contribute to our ongoing efforts to expose legal and political corruption, we invite you to click on the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the blog's front page for contributions via PayPal. We are working on establishing a GoFundMe site, and hope to have an announcement about that soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2015 reporter Charles J. Dean bemoans inaccurate reporting in the modern world of digital journalism while engaging in wildly inaccurate reporting himself

Charles J. Dean
An Alabama mainstream journalist, in an article published yesterday, bemoans the proliferation of inaccurate reporting in modern journalism--and then proceeds to engage in . . . inaccurate reporting.

Charles J. Dean, of, manages to pull off that neat trick in an article titled "Separating rumor from fact and remembering don't believe everything you read."

Dean's article is so poorly written--and apparently no longer can afford to employ copy editors to clean up reporters' messes--that it's hard to tell what he's trying to say. But here is my best guess at his key points: (1) Reports are false that Rebekah Caldwell Mason, adviser and mistress to Governor Robert Bentley, left the state to work on the presidential campaign of Ohio Governor John Kasich; (2) Reports are false that Bentley legal adviser David Byrne has resigned; (3) An unnamed "blogger," apparently me, is responsible for these journalistic transgressions.

There is a slight problem with Dean's apparent claims: I've never reported that Mason went to work for the Kasich campaign, and I've never reported that Byrne resigned from the Bentley staff. In other words, Dean engages in the very inaccurate reporting that he attempts to decry.

On top of that, Dean fails to disclose to his readers the likely reason for his personal animosity toward me and this blog. In summary, Dean's reporting is inaccurate, sloppy, poorly written, and deceptive. Are we supposed to take this guy as a paragon of journalistic virtue?

Dean starts by informing us that a political interest group called Forward Alabama had posted on the Web about Mason's alleged work for the Kasich campaign. This leads Dean to tsk, tsk as follows:

A so-called progressive political group "Forward Alabama" didn't make up that post to Facebook. They picked it up from a blogger who must be part of the so-called "political insiders" group.

Some insiders.

Who is the blogger in question, how does Dean know Forward Alabama picked up the Mason-Kasich story from him (or her), and what is this "so-called political insiders group"? Dean doesn't bother to enlighten us on any of that.

He does tsk tsk again on the subject of Byrne's alleged resignation. Writes Dean:

Of course the blogger who originally posted that Mason was working for Kasich had also posted that Bentley's chief legal advisor, David Byrne was resigning and implied it was over the unsubstantiated rumor that a romantic relationship between Bentley and Mason is why Diane Bentley is divorcing her husband of 50 years.

And by the way, Byrne was also in the hallways of the Legislature working too – for Bentley. He has not resigned.

Dean again mentions an unnamed blogger and leaves all sorts of questions unanswered. Based on my research, both the Kasich and Byrne stories originated with Alabama lawyer Donald Watkins, who has written extensively about Bentley/Mason affair on his Facebook page.

Dean never mentions Watkins by name, but he does write the following, which clearly is a reference to me:

We live in an age where anybody with a computer and an internet connection can post anything, including one blogger who has written about Bentley and Mason. That blogger, by the way, has been sued for defamation and jailed on related contempt of court charges. A Jefferson County judge in April ruled against the blogger and awarded the woman he had defamed by writing she had had an affair with a state official $3.5 million.

This is one of the few parts of Dean's article where the writing is clear; he's referring to a pair of defamation lawsuits filed against me in fall 2013, roughly one month apart, by Republican operatives Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison. Dean, of course, conveniently leaves out a few facts:

(1) The contempt-of-court finding that led to my incarceration in the Riley matter was contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law, and even right-leaning legal analysts have written that it was blatantly unlawful. A paragon of journalistic integrity, such as Chuck Dean, should know his First Amendment law.

(2) The $3.5-million figure in the Garrison case was a default judgment, which grew from my unlawful incarceration and the wrongful foreclosure on our house, which made it impossible for me to defend myself. In other words, the judgment is not supported by law or facts, the plaintiffs' version of events never has been challenged under oath in a court of law, and my reporting in neither case never has been found to be false or defamatory by a jury. In fact, neither case went to a jury.

Why is Chuck Dean so quick to trash me? Well, it's almost certainly because I recently outed him for participating in the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site. I also asked this question: Has Chuck Dean been reluctant to report on the Bentley-Mason affair because he himself has engaged in--or tried to engage in--extramarital activity via Ashley Madison?

Before publishing my article, I gave Dean an opportunity to comment and to answer questions such as the one above. He chose not to respond.

Before trashing me, did Chuck Dean offer to interview me, to give me an opportunity to respond to questions he might have? Did Dean even bother to check the court files to discover the facts about the cases in question? Nope, Chuck Dean did none of that.

We are supposed to learn something about journalistic integrity from this guy? It's apparent he knows no more about journalistic integrity than he knows about marital integrity.

At least there is an element of truth to the headline on Chuck Dean's story. You absolutely should not believe everything you read--especially if Chuck Dean is writing it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ashley Madison story is not going away; Alabama list contains numerous prominent professionals, so the story is just heating up here at Legal Schnauzer

A Facebook friend recently wrote the following: "Anyone notice how the Ashley Madison thing just went away?"

My FB friend, it turns out, was a bit premature. I can't speak for other journalists who have reported on the hack of data from the extramarital-affair Web site, but the Ashley Madison story is just heating up here at Legal Schnauzer.

We already have reported on two prominent Alabamians--Bradley Arant lawyer Rob Campbell (son-in-law of former Governor Bob Riley) and journalist Charles J. Dean--who held Ashley Madison accounts in apparent efforts to cheat on their spouses. But those are just the opening acts--the Ed Sheeran before the Rolling Stones, you might say--for the reports that are to come.

The Ashley Madison story is challenging to report for several reasons. One, the amount of data is massive, and sorting through it is labor intensive and time consuming. I have data from four states--Alabama, Missouri, Louisiana, and Mississippi. We are working on information for Florida and Georgia.

How big an undertaking is this? Well consider the data from Alabama: Our sources say there are roughly 8,000 paid Ashley Madison users in Alabama, and those are the names we've seen so far at various Web sites. But there are about 220,000 total AM users in Alabama. That means we only know the IDs of a tiny fraction of users. The other users either access the site for free--they can search, but can't chat, swap photos, and use other features--or they obtained some kind of special debit card in an effort to hide their identity, which I'm told can be ascertained anyway. The scope of participation in this is way bigger than many of us knew at the outset.

The number of paid users in Florida, for example, is about 50,000.

A second challenge, for me, came when Missouri deputies conducted an unlawful eviction at the apartment where my wife and I were living and broke my wife's arm so severely that it required surgery. She's only been out of the hospital a few days and is nowhere near a full recovery, which likely will take two or three months, at least.

Bradley Arant's Rob Campbell:
Lawyer outed on Ashley Madison
That has slowed the Ashley Madison story, but it has not gone away. In fact, it's about to get red hot.

Focusing primarily on the Birmingham Metro area, I've found an extraordinary number of high-level professionals--CEOs, CFOs, lawyers, doctors, bankers, engineers, wealth managers, architects, designers . . . the list goes on.

Here are just a few of the companies and entities with executives who have Ashley Madison accounts--HealthSouth, Sterne Agee, Hoar Construction, Cadence Bank, EBSCO, Western Steel, UAB, Royal Cup, Southern Company, Royal Automotive, Liberty National, Wells Fargo, Golden Flake, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Orkin, BBVA Compass, Skyline Steel, Daimler, The Club, Lakeshore Foundation, Regions Bank, Command Alkon . . . and many more. That doesn't include all the law firms, large and small, that are represented on the list.

And I'm developing a similar list for Missouri.

Is the Ashley Madison story going away? Not by a long shot.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rebekah Caldwell Mason hires prominent lawyer, with possible criminal probe looming from Bentley affair

Gov. Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
The adviser who engaged in an extramarital affair with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, leading to a divorce action from Bentley's wife of 50 years, has hired a prominent Montgomery attorney in anticipation of a possible criminal investigation, sources tell Legal Schnauzer.

Rebekah Caldwell Mason has hired Bobby Segall, of the firm Copeland Franco. Segall perhaps is best known for representing defendants in the Don Siegelman and Alabama bingo prosecutions. Meanwhile Birmingham attorney Donald Watkins reports on his Facebook page that Bentley has hired Montgomery criminal-defense lawyer Joe Espy.

What is the most likely source of criminal exposure for Mason and Bentley? Our sources say it is the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, also known as ACEGOV, a nonprofit organization with ties to three of the most powerful entities in the state--Alabama Power, the University of Alabama System, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who have tried to arrange a monopoly on state gaming in exchange for assistance with the state budget crisis.

Where does ACEGOV get its money? The council is not terribly forthcoming with that information, but in a general sense, the funds reportedly come from Bentley's leftover campaign resources. More specifically, our sources say, the money comes mostly from Alabama Power and the Poarch Creeks--and a significant amount of it has been funneled to Governor Bentley's mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Cooper Shattuck, a former legal adviser for Bentley, formed ACEGOV in February before moving on to become general counsel for the University of Alabama System. What is Shattuck's role at UA? Here is how the university's Web site describes it:

The General Counsel, R. Cooper Shattuck, staffs, organizes, and manages the Office of Counsel. The General Counsel also serves on the Chancellor’s Senior Staff.

Sounds like a pretty big job. Shattuck oversees a staff of 21 lawyers who serve the three UA campuses--in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Huntsville. Joining him as board members for ACEGOV are R.B. Walker, assistant to the executive vice president at Alabama Power, and Marquita Davis, a former state finance director under Bentley and current executive director of the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity.

Shattuck helps complete a powerful trifecta--University of Alabama, Alabama Power, Poarch Creeks--that, our sources say, helped funnel money to Rebekah Caldwell Mason. How much did ACEGOV pay Mason, and what services did she perform? Was she paid mainly to stay quiet about her affair with Governor Bentley?

Could the answers to those questions help lead to criminal charges against Mason, Bentley, and perhaps others? We will address those questions in upcoming posts.

Monday, September 21, 2015

By focusing on Mark Fuller's private misconduct, are judicial elites covering for his actions on the bench?

Are judicial elites trying to cover for Mark Fuller's
corrupt actions from the bench?
Judicial investigators announced last week that disgraced federal judge Mark Fuller engaged in "reprehensible conduct," which included physically abusing his wife at least eight times, and lied under oath to the committee investigating his behavior.

The Judicial Conference of the United States stated in a letter to Congress that the severity of Fuller's actions, plus its finding of perjury, might merit impeachment proceedings--even though he resigned from the bench in August.

Legal experts have said that the conference's findings against Fuller, best known for overseeing the trial of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, represent a tough stance against judges who bring disrepute to the judiciary. But is that really the case? Is the judicial hierarchy, by focusing on Fuller's private behavior while largely ignoring his dubious actions on the bench, actually conducting a cover-up and trying to protect its own reputation.

The answers to the those two questions, in our view, are no and yes.

Should the public be concerned that Fuller, appointed to the bench in the Middle District of Alabama by President George W. Bush, repeatedly beat Kelli Gregg Fuller before and after they got married--and then lied under oath about his actions? Of course. Should the public be concerned that documents from Fuller's first marriage suggest he abused his wife and children then, drove while intoxicated, engaged in extramarital affairs, and abused alcohol and prescription drugs? Absolutely.

But what about Fuller's conduct in his "official capacity," while wearing a robe? We are among a relatively small number of journalists who have shown that Fuller repeatedly made unlawful rulings in the Siegelman case, forcing former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to prison for a sentence he already has served--while Siegelman remains incarcerated at Oakdale, Louisiana, for a "crime" that does not exist under federal law.

How corrupt were Fuller's actions in the Siegelman case? Here is the simplest explanation: Evidence at trial showed that the alleged unlawful transaction between Siegelman and Scrushy took place almost six years before federal prosecutors issued an indictment. That means the alleged wrongdoing--and evidence at trial showed there was no wrongdoing at all--took place well outside the five-year statute of limitations.

That means the case should not have gone to trial--and by law, it could not go to a jury either. Fuller, however, took a number of improper steps to ensure that a stale case, which should have been dead on arrival, moved forward toward a jury that issued guilty verdicts not supported by fact or law.

Here's the key to what's really going on with the "investigation" of Mark Fuller: The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Fuller's unlawful trial rulings on multiple occasions. That's why the judicial hierarchy wants the public to focus on Fuller's home life. If citizens were to focus on Fuller's abominable actions from the bench, the inquiry could not stop with him; it also would have to focus on the appellate court in Atlanta, which covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

Goodness knows, the Judicial Conference does not want that to happen.

That's why various legal experts were quoted in The New York Times, praising the "tough-guy stance" toward Mark Fuller. Here is one example:

“They didn’t pull any punches,” said Arthur Hellman, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in judicial ethics. “They didn’t try to whitewash it in any way, and I think that’s part of the message they’re trying to convey: If a federal judge does something bad, the judiciary will take steps to force him off the bench.”

Here is another example:

“They want to use this as a teaching moment for the federal judiciary,” said Charles G. Geyh, a law professor at Indiana University who testified during impeachment proceedings against a different federal judge.

Both Hellman and Geyh are full of horse feces. In fact, to borrow a phrase from Hellman, a "whitewash" is exactly what's going on.

Judicial elites don't mind sacrificing Mark Fuller for engaging in domestic abuse. But they don't want you to know that he was crooked on the bench--and they sure don't want you to know that appellate judges supported Fuller's corrupt actions all along the way.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

My wife is recovering from surgery on the arm Missouri deputies broke during violent "eviction"

My wife, Carol, had surgery yesterday on the arm that Missouri sheriff deputies broke during an unlawful "eviction" that appeared to be more like an orchestrated assault.

A trauma surgeon said the procedure went well, and he expects a full recovery. Carol's caregivers said she will need regular physical therapy, and her recovery probably will take at least two to three months.

The surgeon described Carol's injury as a broken elbow. He said a number of implants (screws, etc.) were needed to piece the bone back together. It looks like Carol will be in the hospital at least one more night.

My computer access is limited, but I will try to keep readers updated on Carol's condition and the events that led to her injury. Jim Arnott, the sheriff of Greene County, Missouri, was at the scene of the "eviction" and watched from a few feet away as his deputies assaulted Carol--doing nothing to intervene except pointing a finger and indicating Carol had "assaulted a police officer."

Arnott and at least one other officer indicated they brought heavy weaponry because I had called 911 and threatened law enforcement if officers tried to evict us. How big a liar is Arnott? Gargantuan might be one fitting adjective.

Carol was viciously assaulted, and I would bet that not one officer has a scratch on him (or her) from the encounter. Meanwhile, Carol has one broken arm, and it's a miracle the other arm wasn't broken. As for me, I've never called 911 in my life, and I've never called anyone to threaten law enforcement.

At least one Legal Schnauzer reader, who writes investigative reports on Facebook, contacted Arnott and asked several questions about the events involving Carol and me. The reader said Arnott acted as if he had no idea what she was talking about. From the reader:

Just got of phone with the . . . sheriff, and he refused to answer any questions about this. Told me I could go to their site and file a "Missouri sunshine law " request. He wouldn't answer anything and got smart with me until I told him off and hung up (yes, my phone # was blocked). I asked pertinent questions such as did he run for office as a Dem or Rep. and of course it was Republican. Also the judge on your case, Kelly Halford Rose. is a Republican. . . .

I did not know Arnott was on the scene [when I talked to him]. He was trying to act dumb when I gave him the address and asked if he had a warrant or proof there was a threat to his department called in? He stonewalled. This is beyond ridiculous.

In the moments before her injury, Carol had been told she could recover our personal belongings--and I was told I could do the same when she was finished. She was walking toward our front door, mainly concerned about retrieving the litter box for our cat Baxter, when two or more deputies jumped her, slammed her to the ground, and twisted both arms behind her back.

Sheriff Jim Arnott
(From KSPR)
Her right arm is badly bruised, and I asked the trauma surgeon to check it because all of the attention seemed to be on her left arm, the broken one. The surgeon said he did not see any breaks or other damage to the right arm, beyond the bruising.

How can such an assault happen on any eviction, much less one where I had filed an appeal that automatically put a stay on proceedings? That's hard to say, but the attorney for landlord Cowherd Construction clearly had knowledge an appeal had been filed. Associate Gregory Lulich is handling the case for the Lowther Johnson law firm. I notified Lulich the day before the scheduled eviction, both by e-mail and voice message, that an appeal had been filed--and I lawfully served him with pertinent documents.

I served another attorney in the case--David Shuler, who happens to be my brother. He represents our mother, even though she isn't lawfully a party to the case. It appears Cowherd Construction sued my mother (with no grounds for doing so) as an excuse to have David involved in the case. Like Lulich, David Shuler had knowledge that the eviction was stayed and did nothing about it--directly implicating him in Carol's injuries. David Shuler, who serves on the Springfield, Missouri Planning and Zoning Commission, is aware that his sister-in-law was seriously hurt--due in large part to his own actions and inactions--but has he acknowledged it or expressed concern about it? Nope.

As for our question about how a bogus eviction could turn into a scene of violence . . . here is a comment from a reader, who is familiar with the normal eviction process, and these words might shine light on that question:

I'm confused. I work for a rental company. There are laws in Alabama that protect the landlord and the tenant. Did they ignore your appeal or did you miss the date for the hearing? The deputies that handle our evictions are there to enforce the eviction but don't touch anything. Employees of our company remove the tenant's belongings, change locks, etc. I've never heard of this many deputies going to an eviction.

Here is my response to the reader:

Most rational people would be confused, . . . Yes, they completely ignored my appeal, which put an automatic stay on the eviction. I notified the landlord's attorney, both by e-mail and voice message, so he had every reason to know that the eviction could not go forward. I've had others tell me they've never heard of this many deputies going to an eviction and bringing at least one, maybe two, assault weapons--plus multiple handguns. The sheriff of Greene County, Missouri, himself was there. How often does that happen? Not only did they touch stuff, they handcuffed both Carol and me, they assaulted her and broke her arm while she was trying to retrieve our cat's litter box, and a neighbor said he saw the landlord's crew stealing our belongings.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Missouri deputies break my wife's arm and aim an assault rifle at me during violent, terrifying "eviction"

This looks a lot like the assault rifle that was pointed at me.
It's called a BERYL 96.
Sheriff deputies broke my wife's arm and aimed what appeared to be an assault weapon at me during an "eviction" last Wednesday at the apartment where we've been living for the past year in Springfield, Mo.

Doctors told my wife, Carol, that the large bone in her upper left arm was broken when Greene County deputies assaulted her as she tried to retrieve some of our belongings from inside the apartment. She is scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning--and we are told it will be a five- or six-hour procedure--although it already has been postponed twice.

Damage to Carol's arm apparently is so severe that a trauma surgeon has been scheduled to operate. The procedure probably would have already been completed if doctors felt an orthopedic surgeon could handle it.

How severe are Carol's injuries? That's unclear at this point, but she was given oxygen, possibly because she was in danger of going into shock, and doctors treated her for possible blood clots. Her neck and shoulders are sore from apparent whiplash, and she shows signs of having a concussion from being thrown violently to the ground. At least three officers surrounded Carol during the assault, and I saw one officer yank both of her arms in an outward and upward motion. Her left arm, the broken one, is so badly bruised that doctors asked if she had been on blood thinners. Her right arm also is extensively bruised, and I'm still not sure how it wasn't broken, too.

The incident began when about six deputies burst through our door at about 1:45 p.m. on September 9. Jim Arnott, the sheriff of Greene County, was on the scene, and he yanked me out of a chair and placed handcuffs on me, even though I was sitting with my hands folded and posed no threat to anyone. Carol was looking out our peephole to see what was going on outside and was slammed against a wall when officers burst through the door.

One of the officers trained what appeared to be an assault weapon on me, and I think at least three or four handguns were pointed in my direction. A construction worker near the scene witnessed much of the incident and said he saw what appeared to be two AK-47s with officers on the premises. I'm not an expert on assault weapons, but I'm not certain this was an AK-47. It was, however, not your standard rifle, and it appeared to be the kind of automatic or semi-automatic weapon that is designed to blow away multiple people in quick order. The rifle looked a lot like the one shown above, which is a BERYL 96.

As officers mauled Carol on the ground, handcuffing her and breaking her arm, Arnott stood a few feet away and pointed at the violent scene and said, "She assaulted a police officer." That's a classic example of how far some law-enforcement officers will go to lie and cover up wrongdoing.

We're not aware of any charges filed against Carol, although she was taken to the Greene County Jail before someone finally realized that her complaints about soreness in her arm might be serious. She apparently was not booked into the jail, and she was transported to one hospital for X-rays that revealed the break and then to another, where the surgery is scheduled.

I witnessed the assault on Carol, and I feel certain none of the officers involved has a scratch on him (or her)--one of the officers was a woman. I was seated in our car in the driveway and could hear Carol say, "I'm trying to . . . . " I lost track of her words after that, but she told me that she was trying to get our cat's litter box. The notion that she assaulted anyone is preposterous.

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott
We were renting the apartment from a company called Cowherd Construction. As officers were busy assaulting and handcuffing Carol and me, a crew from Cowherd removed our possessions and placed them at the edge of the street. A neighbor told us that he witnessed multiple Cowherd crew members placing various items, which belonged to us, in their vehicles. Based on the neighbor's words, we were the victims of rampant theft.

A number of good-hearted individuals helped us place furniture and some of our valuables in the neighbor's garage. But a lot of personal belongings--clothes, wedding photos, my wedding ring, and much more--seem to be gone. As I type this, I'm not sure what Carol and I have left--the clothes on our back, our kitty kat Baxter, miscellaneous furniture, and not much else.

I put the term eviction in quotation marks above because the entire procedure that led to Carol's injuries was unlawful. I will explain further in an upcoming post, but I was the defendant in a rent-and-possession lawsuit styled Trent Cowherd v. Roger Shuler. I had timely filed a notice of appeal, and under Missouri law, that puts a stay on execution of an eviction notice. Neither officers nor the Cowherd crew members had lawful grounds to be on the property last Wednesday (September 9), but they broke through our door, pointed multiple weapons at me, and broke Carol's arm anyway. And if our neighbor's words are on target, they also caused many of our personal belongings to be stolen.

All of this explains why Legal Schnauzer has been quiet in recent days. I will update readers on Carol's condition and related events, hopefully in a few days. My access to a computer right now is limited, so I will not be able to post comments and respond to e-mails as quickly as I usually do.

Information about Trent Cowherd v. Roger Shuler, the underlying "eviction" case that led to all of this, is available at the following link:

Your Missouri Courts

You can click on "Litigant Name Search" and type in my name to call up both the trial-court case and appellate case that, by law, put a stay on the eviction. Most of the case information can be viewed by clicking "Docket Entries."

Here is a portion of the docket entry for the trial-court case. It clearly shows that I filed a notice of appeal on 9/8/15, and the eviction took place anyway on 9/9/15:

09/10/2015 -- Return Service - Other
Landlord Execution returned served/posted by the GCSD. /st

09/09/2015 -- Correspondence Filed
Missouri Court of Appeals files Correspondence to acknowledge receipt of a notice of appeal./bh

09/08/2015 -- Motion to Quash
Defendant filing pro se files Motion to Quash Execution. /kbt
Certificate of Mailing
Notice of Appeal saved and attached in PDF format for Attorney(s) to retrieve from secure Notice of Appeal sent electronically to Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District/KC
Notice of Appeal Filed
Roger Shuler Defendant Pro Se Files Notice of Appeal. /KC
08/31/2015 -- Judgment Entered
Formal Interlocutory Judgment executed and filed. Rose/kj Judgment for possession. Rose/kj

I will explain the law behind this in an upcoming post. For now, I have a wife whose upper arm--in the words of her doctor--is "snapped in two." Getting her on the mend is priority No. 1. Meanwhile, many of our possessions have been lost or stolen, and the roof over our head might soon disappear.

Those familiar with my bogus arrest and incarceration in Alabama know that the price is high for journalists who dare to report accurately about legal and political corruption. The price has just gotten higher--and the terrorism campaign against us officially has crossed state borders.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Evidence in court documents indicates Rob Riley's defamation case was rigged against me from the outset

Jay Murrill
Do you want to see evidence that the Rob Riley and Liberty Duke lawsuit against my wife and me was cooked from the beginning?

We've provided evidence in a previous post that examined some of the cases Judge Claud Neilson cited to supposedly show that a preliminary injunction is a proper remedy in a defamation case.

A review of the court file indicates lawyers from Riley's own firm, especially Jay Murrill, wrote pretty much all of the orders in the case; that means they dug up the cases that Neilson cited. We've shown that four of the cited cases do not remotely say what Team Riley claims they say. Now we will take a look at the remaining nine cases--and then we will show how the results of our examination suggest that the case was rigged from the get-go.

This is a rare opportunity for the public to see exactly how corrupt lawyers, with a judge in their hip pocket, commit fraud in our taxpayer-funded courts. Join us for an unusual ride in journalism, the kind you likely never have, and never will, find in the mainstream press. We pick up with the fifth case cited in Neilson's preliminary-injunction order (which can be seen at the end of this post).

Remember these cases are purported to show that a preliminary-injunction is a proper and lawful remedy in a defamation. Do they say that? Let's take a look:

(5) American University of Antigua College of Medicine v. Woodward, 837 Fed. Supp. 2d 686 (E.D. Michigan, 2011)

Background--A medical school sued a former student, who started a Web site to voice dissatisfaction about his experience at the school.

Key holding--The court held that the student, by failing to respond properly to a Request for Admissions, had admitted that certain items on his Web site were false. The court held that those items had been judicially determined to be false and granted the school a permanent injunction on them. The court held that other items were not actionable defamation and denied the school summary judgment on those. In its opinion, the Court initially denied injunctive relief and cited “the First Amendment’s ‘heavy presumption’ against prior restraints” and “‘nearly two centuries of widespread acceptance at common law . . . that equity will not enjoin a defamation.’” That opinion changed, however, when the court determined that the student (Woodward) had admitted certain statements were false, leading to a permanent injunction.

Our verdict--We have found no evidence that Woodward appealed this ruling, but he probably would have succeeded because there was no finding at trial that his statements were false and defamatory. The court acknowledged that a preliminary injunction in a defamation case is unlawful, but granted a permanent injunction based on Woodward's failure to timely respond to a Request for Admissions. This is a peculiar outcome, and a higher court almost certainly would overturn it on appeal.

(6) Bluemile Inc. v. Yourcolo LLC, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXUS 62178 (S.D Ohio, 2011)

Background--An Internet technology services company in Ohio sued a competitor, claiming it had violated a registered trademark and made false statements.

Key holding--The court granted a temporary restraining order, based largely on trademark and cybersquatting grounds. The order also appears to enjoin statements that were not found to be defamatory at trial, but the court makes no finding regarding prior restraint or other constitutional issues.

Our verdict--It's unclear if this ruling was appealed, but it makes no citation to law regarding a preliminary injunction in a defamation case. Our research indicates the case was settled.

(7) Eppley v. Iacovelli, 209 WL 1035265 (SD Ind., 2009)

Background--A plastic surgeon in Indiana sought a preliminary injunction against a former patient who published numerous Web pages and videos claiming the surgeon caused a number of ailments.

Key holding--The patient lived in Massachusetts and did not respond to the surgeon's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, so the district court granted it. The patient (Iacovelli) filed a notice of appeal in December 2009, but she died in 2010, so the constitutional issues in her case went largely unaddressed.

Our verdict--As a document from a Missouri case points out, Eppley was an unreported opinion, with no precedential value, and it apparently was rendered based largely on allegations that the patient had violated stalking, harassment, and extortion laws. According to the record, the patient received a negative outcome because she failed to respond to the surgeon's request for a preliminary injunction--and she died before issues raised in her appeal could be heard.

(8) International Profit Associates v. Paisola, 461 F. Supp 2d, 672 (ND Ill., 2006

Background--A business-consulting company in Illinois sued, claiming a financial-services company had violated trademark, copyright, eavesdropping, and cyberpiracy laws, also alleging defamation.

Key holding--The court issued a narrow temporary restraining order on some issues, but noted that a broad prohibition against speech would run afoul of prior restraint provisions and the First Amendment.

Our verdict--This is another business case decided primarily on trademark and cyberpiracy grounds, a growing issue in the Internet age. It makes no finding on constitutional issues related to defamation.

(9) Evans v. Evans, WL 5490538 (Cal. Sup. Ct., 2007)

Background--A deputy sheriff sued his former wife, alleging harassment, defamation, and breach of privacy.

Key holding--The trial court granted a preliminary injunction on all claims. The injunction regarding defamation was overturned on appeal because it was found to be an improper prior restraint.

Our verdict--Evans holds exactly the opposite of what Team Riley claims. It found a preliminary injunction to be "constitutionally invalid."

(10) Griffis v. Luban, WL 338139 (Minn. Ct. App., 2002)

Background--An Alabama expert on Egyptian history (Griffis) brought a defamation action against a Minnesota resident over comments made in an Internet news group about archaeology.

Key holding--The Minnesota resident (Luban) did not respond to the action in Jefferson County, Alabama, circuit court, leading to a default judgment. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed, finding the Alabama court had no personal jurisdiction over Luban.

Our verdict--This case was decided on jurisdictional grounds, with no findings on constitutional issues related to defamation.

(11) Apex Technology Group v. Doe, MID-L 7878-09 (NJ Superior Court, 2009)

Background--The principal of a technology company sued various unknown individuals, seeking removal of posts at certain Web forums.

Key holding--The court issued an order directing the websites' upstream hosts to disable access to the websites, and ordering Facebook, Yahoo! and Comcast to disclose the identity of the individual behind two email addresses associated with that plaintiffs alleged had included defamatory postings in an email newsletter. Information about the case is sparse, but the court apparently granted one defendant's Motion to Dismiss and lifted its earlier order.

Our verdict--The court's original ruling received heavy criticism from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which called it "deeply dangerous and wrong." The court apparently came to its senses and lifted an order that has no support in the law.

(12) Bat World Sanctuary v. Cummins, No. 352-248169-10 (Dist. Ct., Texas, 2011)

Background--A nonprofit dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured and ailing bats sued a former intern who filed complaints with a government agency about conditions at the sanctuary and also wrote negative comments at several Web sites.

Key holding--After a four-day bench trial, the court found for Bat World on the defamation claim.

Our verdict--This case involved defamation, but it had nothing to do with a preliminary injunction. The former intern (Cummins) was found liable for defamation at trial, so prior restraint never was an issue.

(13) Cullum v. White, WL-3333056 (Ct. App. TX, 2010)

Background--The owner of an exotic game ranch sued a former ranch hand who made derogatory comments about the operation in e-mails and on a Web site.

Key holding--A jury found the former ranch hand (Cullum) liable for defamation. On appeal, the trial court's permanent injunction was set aside.

Our verdict--Like the Bat World Sanctuary case, Cullum simply was a defamation case that went to trial. It did not involve constitutional questions about preliminary injunctions and prior restraints.

So there, you have it--13 cases, none of which have precedential value in Alabama, and none of which says a preliminary injunction is a proper remedy in a case of alleged defamation. That means Team Riley goes 0-13 in its legal research, for a batting average of .000.

What can we draw from this? For one, it appears there are some really bad lawyers at the Riley Jackson firm. But more importantly, common sense indicates no one at the firm took research on this subject seriously. Why would that be? I can think of only one reason--the firm's lawyers knew Judge Neilson was in the bag, on their side, and that meant they were going to prevail whether they did legitimate research or not.

We hope readers appreciate what this post, and the one that preceded it, has done. It has shown--probably for the first time in Alabama history and maybe for the first time in U.S. history--exactly how a law firm and a corrupt judge colluded to cheat a litigant. And this wasn't a mild cheat job; it was one that caused the litigant to lose five months of his freedom.

This goes way beyond the hardships this brought on me and my wife. If you live in Alabama, your taxpayer dollars supported this con game. It was carried out, from beginning to end, in publicly funded facilities, with publicly funded resources.

If you live in Alabama and that doesn't make you at least a little bit angry, you might want to check your pulse.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 reporter Charles J. Dean manages to merge the Robert Bentley and Ashley Madison sex scandals

Gov. Robert Bentley and
Rebekah Caldwell Mason reporter Charles J. Dean last Friday wrote perhaps the most peculiar article yet about the sex scandal enveloping Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and trusted aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason--and that's saying something because alone has written one peculiar story after another since First Lady Dianne Bentley filed for divorce on August 28.

The Dean story stands out because it merges, in a roundabout way, the Bentley scandal with the Ashley Madison marital-cheating Web site scandal. It also provides a classic example of social media's potential for bringing a journalist's credibility into question.

How did Chuck Dean land at the crossroads of the Robert Bentley and Ashley Madison stories? Well, the list of paid Ashley Madison users in Alabama, released in the aftermath of a highly-publicized hack at the Web site, includes one Charles J. Dean. Here is how the official entry on the reporter reads--providing name, amount spent, e-mail address, and physical address:

CHARLES J. DEAN, 1661, CJPDEAN@GMAIL.COM, 328 Lathrop Avenue, Birmingham, 35209

A check of Jefferson County property records shows that the owners of a home at 328 Lathrop Avenue (in the municipality of Homewood) are Charles J. and Laurie O. Dean. The property is valued at $284,600.

 I recently sent Chuck Dean an e-mail query, seeking comment--and offering to conduct an interview--about his inclusion on the Ashley Madison list. He did not respond.

Has Chuck Dean been trying to cheat on his wife--and perhaps succeeding--via an account at Ashley Madison? Publicly available documents suggest the answer is yes. Does that help explain Dean's preposterously softball treatment of the Bentley scandal? A reasonable person could conclude the answer is yes.

But our query does not end there. A check of Chuck Dean's Facebook page reveals that one of his "friends" is Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Does that help explain a passage such as this from Dean's report on the Bentley scandal? (Dean introduces it by describing Mason's role in helping Bentley handle two traumatic events--a tornado in their shared home base of Tuscaloosa and the execution of a prisoner.):

Those are just two events and times that Mason and Bentley have shared over the past four-plus years. It is a time that has seen the now 43-year-old Mason ascend in Bentley's political life from campaign spokesperson to administration communications director to now Bentley's senior political adviser.
And now they are sharing something else, something totally unwanted. A rumor about the two has been circulating in mostly political circles for many months. It exploded across the Internet and blogger world Friday when Bentley's wife of 50 years, Dianne, filed for divorce from her 72-year-old husband. Despite no claim of infidelity in the divorce papers, the rumor traveled across platforms such as talk radio, Facebook, Twitter and in some blogs of dubious credibility purporting the unsubstantial rumor as fact.

Let's address a few points from the highlighted section of Dean's article above:

* A reporter who has spent any time covering courts should know that many divorce complaints say nothing about infidelity, abuse or any other actual causes of marital discord. Most complaints that I've seen contain boilerplate language about "incompatibility of temperament" and such, designed simply to start the divorce process. I'm aware of multiple divorce cases where infidelity or abuse (or both) were present, but the court complaints mentioned neither.

* Dean states that a number of social-media sites and blogs are "purporting the unsubstantial rumor as fact." Dean seems to have his grammar all messed up here, and apparently can no longer afford copy editors to fix such sloppy sentences. We can only assume Dean means to say the sites are "reporting" not "purporting"; the latter doesn't quite fit in these circumstances. We also assume Dean means the rumor is "unsubstantiated," not "unsubstantial." Dean surely is aware that the story has gone well beyond "rumor" stage. I broke the story here at Legal Schnauzer last Monday, citing multiple anonymous sources, and by the end of the week, even Dean's own news organization was making references to the Bentley-Mason affair. Dean, of course, is free to criticize my reporting--or the reporting of his colleagues--but to refer to this story as a "rumor" is disingenuous, at best.

Charles J. Dean
* Finally, Dean refers to "some blogs of dubious credibility." Since Legal Schnauzer broke the Bentley-Mason story, it seems clear he is referring mainly to my blog. Dean apparently considers my credibility "dubious" because I've been the target of two defamation lawsuits in my 36-year journalism career--both filed by GOP political operatives, within roughly a month of each other, in fall 2013. Has my reporting in either case been found at trial to be false or defamatory? Dean easily could check the public record and find that the answer is no. In fact, he would find that both plaintiffs--Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison--did not seek jury trials in their original filings. Riley never sought a jury trial and never filed any sworn statement, such as an affidavit, claiming my reporting was false. Garrison only sought a jury trial after I sought a jury trial in my answer. Her original complaint, like Riley's, did not want her case heard by a jury.

Enough about my credibility, what about Chuck Dean's? Let's consider more from his Bentley-Mason article:

I personally first heard the rumor in late January. I got a phone call from a person who would not identify herself. Her phone number was blocked also. Then another call some days later came in claiming the same thing. I also found out that other reporters and media people were getting calls apparently all from unnamed people.
My gut told me the rumor was untrue, as are most such rumors I've heard in over 35 years of reporting. But, the rumor was persistent and so sudden and was coming to so many in an effort to push it I began to wonder two things: could it be true? And if not, why was somebody trying to damage Bentley or Mason?
Those two questions started me on a journey where I asked many people many questions, turned over many rocks and met sources in many bars.
Months later I still can't say with proof why that rumor began, who is behind it or for what purpose.
I have watched. I have listened. I have asked questions. I've heard many things. None of them convince me that this rumor is true. And many of them convince me it is not true.

Let's examine the three passages highlighted above, in order:

* This is the classic lament of the reporter who has been beaten on a story--especially when said reporter has reason to know the story is true. "Well, I heard this way back in ________ (fill in the month or year), way before ____________ (fill in the name of reporter who broke the story) ever heard about it," the reporter is saying. "I'm much more careful than the reckless guy (or gal) who broke the story, and that's the only reason I didn't get it first. I knew about it, but I just chose not to let my readers (or listeners) know about it." Somehow, this always makes the beaten reporter feel better.

* Dean could only find unnamed people to discuss this subject? I had to almost fight off people, with names, who provided all sorts of details about the Bentley-Mason affair. My primary sources are all long-time, knowledgeable insiders in the world of Alabama politics and journalism. They gave me their names, and I have no reason to believe they are rumormongers or enemies of Bentley. In fact, one has been a long-time Bentley supporter.

* Why did Dean conclude that the reports of an affair aren't true? That's hard to say, but his story hints at a chummy relationship with Mason, and in fact, she shows up as a friend on his Facebook page. Does Dean disclose that to his readers? Nope.

That takes us to something else Chuck Dean does not disclose to his readers--his presence on the Ashley Madison list of marital cheaters (or attempted marital cheaters). Does Dean's own experience in the world of extramarital affairs (or attempted affairs) color his reporting on the Bentley-Mason story? It's hard to see any way that it wouldn't.

Dean's own employer doesn't seem to put much stock in his reporting. In a Sunday editorial, called on Bentley to talk publicly about the affair and related issues. It also called on Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hamner, a Bentley appointee, to reconsider her decision to seal the divorce file. All of which leads to this conclusion: If Chuck Dean wants to question someone's credibility, maybe he should look in the mirror.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Rebekah C. Mason and her husband have made almost $1 million during the Robert Bentley administration

Rebecca and Jon Mason
Governor Robert Bentley's mistress and her husband have received almost $1 million in government-related payments since Bentley became Alabama governor in 2011.

Rebekah Caldwell Mason, whose affair with the governor led to First Lady Dianne Bentley's divorce complaint last Friday, has been paid $426,978.43 via her Tuscaloosa-based company, RCM Consulting. Those campaign expenditures are shown at the Alabama Secretary of State Web site.

Records at show that Mason has received $161,571.67 in state funds during the Bentley administration. Those payments--in fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013--were listed mostly as "personnel costs," with a small amount for "out of state travel."

That brings total payments, to Rebekah Mason or her company, to $588,550.10.

The total expands considerably when you consider payments to Jon Mason, Rebekah's husband, in his role as director of the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Bentley appointed Jon Mason as director in 2011, and the office since has morphed into

At the "About Serve Alabama" Web page, the office's mission states:

ServeAlabama is a state agency under the office of the Governor of Alabama.

Serve Alabama, The Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Volunteer Service works to increase an ethic of service and volunteerism in the State of Alabama, strengthen the capacity of Alabama’s faith and community-based organizations, and promote collaboration among individuals and organizations striving to meet some of the greatest needs in our state.

We Serve Alabama in the following ways:

We serve as the Alabama State Service Commission, granting and administering (10) State AmeriCorps Programs across Alabama.

We are the state’s lead agency for Volunteer and Donations Management after disasters. Our work in this role includes response to Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, Deepwater Horizion Spill and the April 2011 tornadoes.

We serve as a liaison to the state for faith-based and community-based non-profit groups.

We administer FEMA’s Disaster Case Management Program for survivors of the April 2011 storms.

We administer the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.

We administer, Alabama’s statewide disaster preparedness campaign.

Our role is to serve the people of Alabama and carry out the goals and objectives of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Volunteer Service through partnerships, integrity, and a sense of community.

How is Jon Mason, as a former weatherman at WVUA in Tuscaloosa, qualified to head such an agency? That remains unclear, but public records show he has been paid well with taxpayer dollars. For FY 2014, the most recent full fiscal year on record, Mason received $94,673.27. It looks like he will be pushing a six-figure salary when FY 2015 is completed.

Jon Mason's total compensation during the Bentley years is $393,539.82. When you add that to Rebekah Mason's haul, you get a total of $982,089.92--and our sources say the official numbers do not represent all funds paid to the Mason family under Bentley.

Alabama is in the midst of a budget crisis, with reports that 15 state parks will be closed and statewide driver's license bureaus will be reduced to four.

But at least someone has profited nicely under Robert Bentley's leadership. And that is the Rebekah and Jon Mason family of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.