Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Gov. Robert Bentley's affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason might start costing Alabama taxpayers big bucks--and a public-corruption trial could be looming

Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
Is Governor Robert Bentley's extramarital affair with aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason about to start hitting Alabama taxpayers in the pocketbook? Are national press and political organizations about to start paying attention? Is Bentley determined to prove that House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), by comparison, is a noble public servant? Could Bentley and Mason be heading down the same highway Hubbard is following--the one that leads to "Indictment City"?

The answer to all four questions appears to be yes, and if that holds up, 2016 could find Montgomery awash in even more corruption than usual.

The Bentley/Mason affair, which ended the governor's 50-year marriage to First Lady Dianne Bentley, took on new dimensions recently when State Auditor Jim Zeigler alleged the governor is renovating the state's dilapidated Gulf Coast mansion only because he lost ownership of two personal beach homes in the divorce. From a report at al.com:

Zeigler, who has publicly criticized the governor on numerous policy issues this year, claims the governor is taking advantage of state money to build a personal home after he lost ownership of his personal beach homes in his September divorce.

"The governor now has a personal need for a Gulf place, so only now is he restoring the governor's mansion at the gulf," Zeigler wrote in a statement.

The two-story, 7,500-square-foot gubernatorial mansion in Baldwin County is receiving a face lift – estimated at $1.5 million to $1.8 million – after sitting boarded up since Hurricane Danny in 1997.

Bentley countered by saying funds from the BP oil-spill settlement will be used to cover costs of the renovation, that no taxpayer funds will be used. But didn't the BP funds go into state coffers? Doesn't that mean state dollars are, in fact, being used to renovate the gulf mansion? Couldn't a reasonable citizen say, "This money should be used for a more important purpose"? And isn't the timing of the renovation, coming so soon after Bentley's divorce settlement, more than a little curious?

Such questions are starting to reach beyond the borders of Alabama. James DeVinnie wrote a scorching article at occupydemocrats.com, titled "Alabama Governor Robbed Citizens Of Millions In Oil Spill Money To Rebuild Beachfront Mansion." Ouch, that headline stings--and the story itself does not let up. Writes DeVinnie:

Showing a reckless disregard for the needs of his state’s people in favor of corporate bosses and his own fancy, Alabama’s Republican governor Robert Bentley is renovating an abandoned 7,500 square-foot governor’s mansion with money left over from 2010 BP oil spill settlement. An estimated $1.5 to $1.8 million of grants from the settlement in the Deepwater Horizon spill will be used to cover the costs of refurbishment. Such a blatant pillaging of funds intended to serve the public good for extravagant private use is downright shameful, especially given that the local communities, industry, and environment along Alabama’s Gulf Coast continue to suffer the effects of the enormous oil spill.

The mansion in question, located on the beachfront in Gulf Shores, AL, was built in the era of famed racist governor George Wallace, and served as a secondary governor’s residence until it was damaged by Hurricane Danny in 1997 and subsequently abandoned. Bentley has claimed that his decision to renovate the property has nothing to do with the fact that he recently lost two nearby beachfront properties in a messy divorce. That divorce was the result of widely credible rumors of an affair between Bentley – who hypocritically couches his opposition to abortion and gay marriage as a belief in “family values” – and one of his staffers.

We must quibble with DeVinnie's characterization of the divorce as "the result of widely credible rumors of an affair." In fact, we broke the story of an affair, based on information from multiple knowledgeable sources--and other state news outlets picked up on it. In other words, the story grew from journalism, not rumors.

Other than that, DeVinnie appropriately nails Bentley for what might be called "gross gubernatorial negligence":

The fact that almost two million dollars of funds meant to serve the people of Alabama affected by corporate negligence are instead going to fund more trickle-down extravagance for the elite has justifiably aroused the ire of many Alabamians, especially as it comes on the heels of the state’s dubious decision in 2013 to use BP settlement money meant for environmental cleanup to build an $85 million hotel and conference center on a state beach property.

For example, in October, the state shut down 30 DMV offices, all in rural majority-black areas, and after an enormous backlash agreed to keep them open only one day per year. The NAACP is suing the state for the closures – which were rationalized by Bentley as a response to the budget crisis – arguing that they serve to suppress the votes of blacks by limiting access to state-issued voter ID cards that are necessary to vote in the state following last year’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act. In another move this year, some 15 Alabama state parks are facing closure due to the budget crisis, and lawmakers are considering serious cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other social services to shore up Montgomery’s finances.

As for Mike Hubbard, he is facing a 23-count indictment alleging he used his public office for private gain. If Zeigler's allegations are on target, it appears Bentley used public funds for private gain--or at least for personal enjoyment. Is the governor, once seen as a distinguished man of medicine, much different from the money grubbing Hubbard? It doesn't look like it.

Cooper Shattuck
What does the future hold for Bentley--and Mason? The possibilities could be grim. Birmingham attorney Donald Watkins is preparing a report for the U.S. Department of Justice on Bentley's alleged criminal actions while in office. From reading Watkins' posts on his Facebook page, it appears much of the report will focus on the Alabama Council for Excellence in Government (ACEGOV), which former Bentley legal adviser Cooper Shattuck started before leaving in February 2015 to become general counsel for the University of Alabama System.

Here is how we reported on Shattuck and others behind the shadowy ACEGOV:

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?

Watkins apparently is thinking along the same lines, and he used the term "slush fund" to help describe ACEGOV:

For over a year, the governor seemed oblivious to the hurt and pain he had caused to Mrs. Bentley and his children by his love affair with Rebekah. Since he was re-elected last year, Bentley’s primary concern has been figuring out how best to use the financial resources of the state, along with leftover campaign funds and the financial resources of friendly political groups, to support his romantic lifestyle with Rebekah.

In February, Governor Bentley established the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation. Bentley’s former legal advisor Cooper Shattuck formed the Council at Bentley’s request. The stated purpose of the organization is to “support Governor Bentley in his efforts to solve real problems and to make Alabama greater, stronger and more excellent for all the hardworking men and women who call this great state our home.” In reality, the Council is a slush fund that was set up to (a) fund Bentley’s love affair with Rebekah while concealing payments to her from the view of public oversight and accountability, and (b) stash money for life with Rebekah after the governor’s divorce from Mrs. Bentley.

Bentley funded the Council with excess campaign funds left over from his 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The Council has also received a $25,000 contribution this year from AEA and $20,000 from the Alabama Hospital Association.

If federal investigators wind up on Bentley's trail, they will have plenty of rocks to look under. The governor's actions with the Gulf Coast mansion might provide just one more slimy rock.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Prosecutor Steve Feaga reportedly once pushed for false testimony in the Siegelman case, and now he tries to convince public that convictions were legitimate

Steve Feaga
(From al.com)
A lead prosecutor in the Don Siegelman trial, who reportedly pushed for false or coerced testimony behind the scenes during the investigation, now is perpetuating falsehoods about the case in a public forum.

Stephen Feaga, a former federal prosecutor who now is listed by the Alabama State Bar as working for the Alabama Securities Commission, made a number of dubious statements in an op-ed piece for the Montgomery Advertiser, dated December 24, 2015, and titled "Siegelman column riddled with inaccuracies."

Feaga was responding to a December 18 Josh Moon piece titled "End the embarrassment and pardon Don Siegelman."

It's little wonder the Moon piece caused consternation for Feaga. Moon might be the first mainstream Alabama journalist to look critically at the prosecution's handling of the Siegelman case. Moon might be the first member of the state's MSM (mainstream media) to question the prosecution's version of the facts--and Judge Mark Fuller's application of the law. Moon probably is the first Alabama MSMer to flatly state that Siegelman--and by extension, codefendant Richard Scrushy--were guilty of no crimes.

Moon's column starts with forceful directness and never lets up; this is one columnist who is not into pulling punches:

It doesn't matter why Don Siegelman is in solitary confinement at a Louisiana federal prison.

It doesn't matter because Don Siegelman shouldn't be in prison at all.

Why this absolute travesty has been allowed to continue – and make no mistake, it is both Democrats and Republicans who have allowed it – is a mystery to me and to a number of attorneys and legal scholars from across the country.

It is an embarrassment to the justice system.

It is an embarrassment to the state.

And it should be an embarrassment to every citizen.

Feaga must have spewed Wheaties all over his breakfast nook when reading that. One can imagine him screaming: "We used to have damned reporters cowering in our corner. What in the hell happened?"

Josh Moon
(From Montgomery Advertiser)
Moon obviously is not buying the prosecution's story or the legal conclusions that Judge Fuller reached--before Fuller was forced off the bench following his August 2014 arrest for allegedly beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room. According to published reports Fuller was staring down the barrel at impeachment before announcing his resignation in May 2015.

Why would Josh Moon reject the story Steve Feaga has been selling for almost a decade? There are plenty of reasons, but this might be the most important: In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Montgomery-based Justice Department whistleblower Tamarah Grimes outlined egregious misconduct by key members of the prosecution team--including U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin, and Feaga. From the Grimes letter to Holder:

Mr. Feaga instructed the investigators how to approach the cooperating witnesses on a particular subject and specified what he needed the witness to say in order to support his prosecutorial theory. For instance, Mr. Feaga would say, "See if you can get him to say it like this . . . , " "Ask him if he is comfortable saying it like this . . . ," or "I need him to say it like this . . . ." The investigators would return from meeting with the cooperating witnesses to report to Mr. Feaga, who would send the investigators back with new instructions.

The process became so absurd--and so blatantly unlawful--that some members of the prosecution could only joke about it. Writes Grimes:

I recall one of the investigators, FBI agent Keith Baker, commented on the conduct by saying, "There is truth, there are facts, and then there are "Feaga facts."

With his December 24 op-ed piece in the Montgomery Advertiser, we know that Steve Feaga still is pushing "Feaga facts." Instead of trying to shove "Feaga facts" down the throats of investigators who reported to him, Feaga now is pushing them on the public.

Should the public buy it? Absolutely not. And we will show you why in an upcoming post.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Joe Scarborough lectures Donald Trump on a free press, but "Morning Joe" has supported thugs in Alabama who are almost as bad as Vladimir Putin

MSNBC talking head Joe Scarborough made headlines the other day by pretending to stand up for a free press while taking offense at Donald Trump's positive statements about Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Did most viewers know that Scarborough was pulling a con during the interview, which can be seen in the video above? It seems unlikely, so we are here to help shine light on the subject.

Scarborough, a University of Alabama graduate, took exception during an interview to Trump's chummy assessment of Putin. Putting on his best schoolmarm face, Scarborough tried to set Trump straight about ugliness in Putin's past. "He kills journalists who don't agree with him," "Morning Joe" said.

But here's what Scarborough did not say: From 2002-10, he consistently trumpeted Alabama Republican Governor Bob Riley and his son, Birmingham lawyer Rob Riley. Scarborough and Rob Riley are BFFs from their days together on the UA campus in Tuscaloosa. Never mind that during his father's tenure, Rob Riley essentially was to Alabama what Uday Hussein was to Iraq--except Uday probably had more respect for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I'm not aware of "Riley Inc." killing any journalists in Alabama. But they've caused journalists "who don't agree" with them to be cheated out of their jobs--and they've even had journalists unlawfully arrested and incarcerated for up to five months. How do I know? I'm one of the journalists to incur their wrath--and I've lost my job (my wife also has lost her job), and I've been thrown in jail because of it.

Does Joe Scarborough care when journalists are treated this way in Alabama? Heck, no. When Bob Riley visited the Morning Joe show in early 2011, Scarborough openly touted him as a possible presidential candidate. (Gag . . . cough . . . gag . . . ) In fact, Scarborough gushed so much over the corrupt former governor--with Uday, I mean Rob, waiting in the wings--it almost seemed the host was going to perform a sex act on Bob Riley at any moment.

Should the public take it seriously when Joe Scarborough tries to portray himself as a champion of a free press? Absolutely not. His ties to the Riley family are proof that he has little or no respect for the First Amendment.

For his part, Donald Trump (never at a loss for words) fired back that there is no proof Putin has killed journalists. We have a feeling "the Donald" is a bit off track about that, but there definitely is proof that the Riley family has caused journalists to be imprisoned--and they did it contrary to 230 years of First Amendment law.

As for "Morning Joe," he probably would be wise to keep his mouth shut about those who might murder someone who causes them alarm. After all, many questions remain unanswered about the 2001 death of 28-year-old Lori Klausutis, who was an aide to Scarborough when he served as a U.S. Congressman from north Florida.

Klausutis' body was found in Scarborough's Fort Walton Beach Office, and the Congressman decided to scuttle his political career not long after her death. The autopsy and death investigation were filled with holes, and the death never has been adequately explained.

The whole disturbing story has been so cloaked that one seemingly cannot find a photo of Lori Klausutis on the Web.

The bottom line? Joe Scarborough has no business attempting to lecture Donald Trump, or anyone else, about a free press. And Scarborough's hypocrisy is grotesque when he points to Vladimir Putin as a powerful individual who has people killed.

Maybe if Scarborough held a press conference to answer any and all questions about the death of Lori Klausutis, he might regain some standing on such subjects. Maybe if Scarborough denounced the hideous actions of Bob and Rob Riley in Alabama, he would regain some stature regarding a free press.

For now, Scarborough should keep his yap shut on topics where his own hands appear to be anything but clean.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Missouri man files excessive-force lawsuit after Kansas City police officers punch him repeatedly during arrest

A Missouri man has filed an excessive-force lawsuit after a dash-cam video showed Kansas City police officers punching him multiple times during an arrest.

The beating of Manuel Palacio, starkly portrayed in the video above, is the closest thing we've seen to the brutality against my wife Carol during an unlawful eviction--which also happened in Missouri, in Springfield, at the hands of deputies from the Greene County Sheriff's Department. That's not the only ironic twist with this story. Missouri also was home to an August 2014 police shooting--killing Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson--that touched off a string of misconduct cases across the country.

Palacio was wanted in a case of armed robbery and wound up pleading guilty to theft; he's now serving a five-year prison term. But the video shows he did not resist officers and complied with their commands.

Tom Porto, Palacio's attorney, said his client was not armed. Officers Shannon Hansen, Jacob Harris and Todd Hall punched, kicked, and spit on Palacio, taunting him with numerous verbal threats, Porto said. Release of the dash-cam video has sparked a criminal investigation Here's how the Web site copblock.org describes the actions of police:

The dash cam starts with officers bumping Palacio, who was walking down the street, with their cruiser. One of the officers jumped out of the cruiser with his gun drawn and orders Palacio to the ground. After he complies, the officers pile on top of him and one of the officers punches Palacio three times in the head.

Throughout the entire arrest Palacio maintains he didn’t do anything, still the officers physically abuse and verbally berate him. Most of what they say is so depraved that it makes you wonder if these are public servants or members of a violent street gang.One of the officers, either Harris or Todd repeats over and over again “You’re bought and paid for, you’re done dude.”

Officer Hansen then threatens to give his family’s information to the victim.

"You’re not only going to get an ass whooping from us, but you’re getting it from him,” Hansen said, while pointing to the robbery victim’s father, who was also on scene. “I’m giving him your address, your mom’s fucking address and everybody’s address that you know and I hope his family comes over and takes a fucking ball bat to your fucking head.”

Another of the officers threatened to send Palacio to the hospital if he didn’t stop talking.

"You sit there and you don’t open your fucking mouth, you understand? Otherwise, you are going to the hospital."

Brian Sumner, writing at CopBlock, was mystified by the officers' behavior:

I’m not entirely sure what these cops were so angry about, it wasn’t like Palacio had victimized them personally. In fact, their behavior should raise questions about the effectiveness of police as mediators. They didn’t even ask for Manual’s ID before pointing guns, shouting orders, and becoming physical.

The video shows Palacio did everything the cops say you’re supposed to if you want to survive a police interaction.

He didn’t call them pigs or cuss them out. He followed all of their orders. He never reached for his waistband or made aggressive movements. He did not resist them in any way, shape or form. He remained calm regardless of their assault. Regardless of his compliance, the officers beat and abused Palacio. The lawsuit claims Palacio suffered head and back injuries, as well as emotional distress, as a result of the attack.

While the video above reminds me of what I saw cops do to Carol during an unlawful eviction in Greene County on September 9, there are a number of differences between the two cases:

* Palacio was a suspect in a crime, to which he eventually pled guilty, while Carol was not connected to criminality in any way. She was trying to retrieve our cat's litter box--and she had been given permission to enter the apartment to gather our personal belongings--when at least three cops surrounded her and slammed her to the ground.

Lawyer Tom Porto
* Police apparently had lawful grounds to be seeking Palacio. They had no lawful grounds to even be at our rented property. The eviction was unlawfully scheduled inside a 10-day window when such actions are not allowed--and it was automatically stayed when we filed a Notice of Appeal the day before, notifying attorneys for all parties involved.

* Palacio clearly was roughed up, but it appears that he came away from the encounter relatively intact. Carol's left arm was shattered when one cop yanked on her arms in a backward and upward direction. She was handcuffed behind her back, placed in a squad car, and driven to the Greene County Jail after Sheriff Jim Arnott (who inexplicably was on the scene) falsely claimed she had assaulted an officer. Arnott, or someone under his direction, apparently decided such a charge wouldn't make much sense once X-rays showed that Carol's arm had been broken, and both arms were bruised to the point of being purple, almost black in some places.

Carol's injuries were so severe that they required trauma surgery, plus eight weeks of intensive physical therapy, with the likelihood that her arm will return to only 75 percent of its normal use, at best. On top of that, cops burst into our residence and pointed multiple weapons at us, including at least one assault rifle.

One similarity between the two cases would almost be comical if it had not been part of gross police misconduct. Officers in the Palacio case are quoted as saying, "You’re bought and paid for, you’re done dude.”

The officer who broke Carol's arm had a habit of saying almost the same thing, to both of us. Whenever either one of us said anything--often to someone else, not him--this one guy would say, "You're done, you're done." He was almost like one of those artificial clowns who pops up from a jack in the box and says the same phrase over and over.

Where will the civil and criminal cases wind up in the Palacio matter? It's too early to say, but we can say for sure that Greene County deputies deserve similar scrutiny for their abusive actions against Carol and me.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Louisiana pastor who killed himself in the wake of Ashley Madison hack had a history of emotional problems, his wife says in new report about fallout

John and Christi Gibson
(From theblaze.com)
A Louisiana pastor who committed suicide after his name appeared in data at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site had a history of emotional problems, his wife says in a recent report about fallout from the highly publicized hack.

John Gibson, a teacher at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, killed himself on or about August 24, roughly six days after his name appeared on a list of Ashley Madison (AM) customers released by a hacking group called Impact Team. A number of suicides, including two in Canada, have been linked to the AM hack, but reporting has been murky on most of the cases. The death of John Gibson marks by far the most widely and solidly reported suicide tied to Ashley Madison revelations.

In an article published last week, fusion.net reporter Kristen V. Brown wrote that Gibson had suffered from a number of addiction problems for years--some of them apparently related to sex. Gibson's wife, Christi, says her husband died, not from the hack, but from a life that had become shrouded in secrecy and false appearances. From the Fusion article:

Christi Gibson lost her husband, a New Orleans pastor, after his name was released in the leak. John Gibson had long struggled with sex addiction and depression. She only discovered her husband’s presence on the site upon reading the note she found along with his body. In it, he confessed his feelings of deep shame and remorse.

After her husband’s suicide, Gibson agreed to interviews with nearly every media outlet that called. She was on a mission to prevent secrets from having the power to destroy people’s lives. If her husband had been honest, she reasoned, he would probably still be alive.

“My life was shattered by secrecy and lies — not by the hack,” she wrote me via e-mail.

In her view, the problem isn’t so much that hackers unleashed stores of sensitive information, but that any of us keep secrets from one another in the first place.

Christi Gibson provided more details in an interview with The Washington Post:

For 25 of their almost 30 years of marriage, Gibson and her husband struggled with his sex addiction. She knew that he struggled and had relapsed over and over again. She did not know that he had used Ashley Madison until she read his suicide note, however. In it, her husband talked about his depression and his deep remorse and shame over having his name be among those found in the adultery Web site’s database.

“He struggled with addiction and with depression and those were two things that he couldn’t — as much as he was willing to help other people and do for other people — he couldn’t conceive that somebody would help him and do it for him in that kind of situation,” Christi said. “The shame of this really was just more than what he could take.”

Christi Gibson has become an outspoken advocate for truth in relationships. It was her husband's secrecy, more than the hack, that led to his death, she says. From the Post article:

As a minister and a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the possibility that his secret life might have been exposed in the leak was simply too much.

And it was for that reason that Gibson and her children decided to go public with their family’s once-private shame and tragedy.

“The shame is in the secrecy and the hiddenness and the lie of this,” Gibson said. “Ashley Madison doesn’t advertise, ‘Hey come have an affair and let’s make it public.’ The whole idea, the allure of a site like this, is the anonymity and the darkness and the hiddenness of it.

“We believe that there’s freedom in the truth,” she added. “If we can speak out and say ‘find a safe person and talk to them, get help with what you’re going through,’ then it doesn’t make our pain go away, but it redeems it.”

Gibson's ties to the church probably made it more difficult for him to work through his struggles with addiction:

“I think what happens to someone who is a minister is that they start thinking of themselves as having to be perfect,” Gibson said. “They start believing that in order for them to help others, in order for them to lead others and minister to others, they have to be flawless themselves.

“It’s wrong thinking,” she added. “Every single story in the Bible of a leader or someone that God really used is a story of someone who is really flawed.”

So, could she have forgiven him?

“I think,” she said, pausing for a moment. “And I hope that John and I would have been able to work through this together had he come to me and said, ‘I’ve done this. I’m so sorry. Can we work through this together?’ I’ll never know because he didn’t let me do that.

“I don’t want to get out here and say, ‘Oh yeah, I could have forgiven it,’ and make myself look like a person who can do anything, because I don’t know,” she added. “I hope and pray that I would have been able to forgive because in the past, God’s given me the grace to be able to do that.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A university president and a former eight-year player in the National Football League appear on Ashley Madison extramarital-affair list for state of Missouri

(From Al Jazeera)
A university president, one who has become a nationally known commentator on economic issues, is among customers of the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affairs Web site in Missouri. The list for Missouri also includes a former player in the National Football League, who spent six years with the St. Louis Rams and two with the Chicago Bears.

Those are just two examples of the many bright, accomplished, prominent individuals who were stupid enough to sign up for a Web site that should have been readily perceived as a scam.

The university president is not your standard low-key, ivory-tower type. He has deep international interests, with connections to China, Thailand, Ghana, Nigeria, and several parts of Europe. Before accepting his current position, this individual served as business dean at a university in St. Louis. The business school is named for an individual from one of America's most prominent political families. While there, the dean was named one of the areas "Most Influential Leaders" by the St. Louis Business Journal.

An expert on building corporate alliances, this academic leader forged relationships with Boeing, Bank of America, Edward Jones, Monsanto, Wal-Mart and Thomas Reuters. Those are some of the biggest names in the Missouri business firmament. The university president also serves as vice chair of the board at a capital-finance company that manages more than $3 billion in assets.

If you follow business news closely, you probably have seen this individual. He has appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, the CBS Evening News, and St. Louis affiliates for FOX, ABC and NBC. His commentaries have appeared in USA TODAY and on public radio’s Marketplace. He consults for leading Fortune 500 companies in the areas of strategy, leadership, corporate responsibility and market positioning. He is a former consultant to the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

As for the football player, you have to be a pretty special talent to spend eight years in the NFL, and this guy probably would have played longer if he had not been hampered by hand, knee, shoulder, and elbow injuries. A linebacker, he led the St. Louis Rams in tackles three years in a row and showed so much promise that the team signed him to a five-year, $24.7-million contract extension.

In other words, this guy was not just a spare part. He was close to becoming a star and Pro Bowl performer until injuries got in the way.

Our research on the Ashley Madison list for Missouri is ongoing, and we are looking into specifics about AM account activity for the university president and former NFL standout. We will hold off on full identifiers until our research is complete, but that (and much more) is coming soon about the sleazy Web site that ensnared a host of well-heeled clients, who should have known better than to get involved.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Events leading to my wife's broken arm suggest rule of law is almost as extinct in Missouri as it is in Alabama

Missouri Sheriff Jim Arnott
That a Missouri deputy would assault and shatter the left arm of a 55-year-old woman--my wife, Carol--might seem outrageous enough. But a review of court documents shows that events leading to Carol's broken arm were almost as disturbing as the brutal nature of the attack itself.

What might be called Missouri's "justice apparatus"--lawyers from multiple firms, a judge, a sheriff, even a landlord--acted so far outside the rule of law that it almost makes Alabama's dysfunctional court system seem quaint by comparison.

Do concepts found in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution--due process, equal protection, etc.--mean anything, anywhere, in this country. I'm starting to think the answer is no.

Carol's arm was broken--so badly that it required trauma surgery and probably will return only to 75 percent usage, at best (see X-ray below)--in the course of an attempted eviction. But court documents show that Missouri tenant-landlord law was butchered in the process, bringing to mind the kind of "justice" portrayed in the Smokey and the Bandit movies.

How sour was our first taste of Missouri "justice"? Two documents that I prepared--neither of which drew written opposition from an opposing party--spell it out. First, we'll look at a Motion to Quash Execution, which was filed in Greene County Circuit Court at 11:54 a.m. on September 8, 2015, the day before the eviction was scheduled. (The full motion can be read at the end of this post.) What are the document's key points?

The court had no jurisdiction over the defendants, Carol and me

If you rent property in Missouri and ever have a dispute with a landlord, you quickly will realize the playing field is grossly unlevel in the other guy's favor. Missouri has a special system for tenant-landlord cases where certain niceties that apply to most cases--the need for personal service of defendants, 30 days to respond with an answer, having a counterclaim heard at the same time as the plaintiff's complaint, etc.--are largely ignored. If a tenant association got together and challenged the Missouri system in federal court, the whole shebang almost certainly would be found grossly unconstitutional. (That could be the subject for a post all of its own.)

How did this loosey-goosey system play out in our case. We never were personally served with the complaint, but in tenant-landlord cases, Missouri allows a "posting-mailing" form of service. (See RSMo. 535.030(2).) This lets a landlord "serve" a tenant by posting the complaint on the door, and he can get away with just that . . . almost. But the pesky "mailing" component of the service process remains. This hurdle is so low that a 300-pound snail should be able to clear it. But the Missouri court--and the lawyers involved--were so inept that they could not clear it. The docket (which you can find by going to case.net and searching for "Trent Cowherd v. Roger Shuler") shows that the complaint never was sent via U.S. mail, as required by the second portion of the "posting-mailing" scheme.

X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm
This means lawful service never was completed, and Missouri courts (in theory) take that seriously. The law holds: "Proper service of process must be accomplished before a court can obtain jurisdiction over the person or property of defendant." Reisinger v. Reisinger 39 S.W. 3d 80 (Mo. App. E.D., 2001). 

But the law does not stop there. Missouri courts also have held: "[A] personal judgment rendered by a court without personal jurisdiction over a defendant is void and may be attacked collaterally." Crouch v. Crouch, 641 S.W. 2d 86 (Mo., 1982).

Bottom line? The Greene County Court had no jurisdiction over us, and Judge Kelly Halford Rose's order to allow the eviction was void.

A deputy broke Carol's arm because of an order that was void--and every judge, lawyer, and sheriff involved should have known that. My motion spelled it out well in advance of the eviction.

How, for example, did Gregory Lulich, attorney (from the Lowther Johnson law firm) for landlord Trent Cowherd, not know this? It isn't complicated. Public records show that Craig Lowther, the firm's named partner, is quite the landlord himself, but he doesn't have a clue about tenant-landlord law? Does Lowther abuse his own tenants while encouraging Trent Cowherd to do the same?

The Notice of Eviction did not appear to be signed by a judge

An eviction can only be carried out under the authority of a court; it's not something a tenant and a sheriff can effectuate on their own--I believe this is the case in all 50 states. Even Missouri seems to recognize that an eviction is a serious matter--one that is ripe for abuse--and must be authorized by a judge. (See RSMo. 534.350.)

The eviction notice that was attached to our door did not appear to be signed by a judge--either by Kelly Halford Rose or anyone else. I scoured it from one corner to another and could not find anything that looked like a judge's signature. Could I have missed it? That's possible, but at this point, I believe the eviction notice was not signed by a judge, as required by law.

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott was on hand for our eviction--Why? I have no idea--and as I tried to explain to him that we had filed a Notice of Appeal that put an automatic stay on execution of the eviction, he shrugged his shoulders and uttered the sheriff's usual phrase, "Well, I've got a court order."

"Is it signed by a judge?" I asked. "The notice that was attached to our door did not appear to be signed by a judge." (Our copy of the notice, like much of our important paperwork, was lost in the chaos of the eviction process. It should be in the official court file.)

"Well, it's in my car," Arnott said.

"Can I see it?"

"I'll show it to you before I leave."

Did I ever get to see it? Nope--Arnott's deputies were too busy brutalizing my wife.

The judge was disqualified because she received an improper ex parte communication

On August 24, one day before the docket hearing in our case, my attorney-brother, David Shuler, sent a letter to the trial judge, Kelly Halford Rose. It was one of the most vile and nasty pieces of correspondence I've seen written about anyone--much less about my wife and me, by my own brother. In so many words, David trashed Carol and me and said he was going to do everything in his power to ensure that landlord Trent Cowherd prevailed in the case, and we lost--no matter what the facts and the law showed.

Trent Cowherd
(From Facebook)
Again, we lost our copy of the letter during the eviction, but it is part of the official docket. (Interestingly, my brother has a duty to serve me as a party in the case, but he has never done it. I've asked him via e-mail three times to serve me with a copy, and he hasn't done it yet.) The letter proves that an attorney who supposedly was in the case to represent our mother actually was striving to help another party, the landlord. In essence, the record suggests, my brother was pulling a con on the court. If that letter was not prejudicial to the point that it required the judge's recusal, I'm not sure what would be. (I plan to have more on this letter in an upcoming post.)

(When we were growing up together in the same household, I always thought of David as an intelligent, honorable guy--and he could be funny as heck when the time was right. I was proud to have him as my little brother. Apparently all of those positive characteristics, go out the window when one goes to law school. I know my warm feelings toward him have been long gone for a while now.)

I moved for Rose to recuse herself, and in denying my motion, acted as if she had been accused of being a member of ISIS.

As for me, I would have preferred having a member of ISIS as a judge--I would take that over Kelly Halford Rose any day. She actually makes some of the Alabama judges I've encountered look honorable and regal by comparison.

The eviction was unlawfully scheduled during a 10-day window when no such action can be lawfully taken

This probably is the most important legal point of all. And it might be best explained by quoting directly from the Motion to Quash:

The Notice of Eviction in the instant case indicates eviction is scheduled for 9 a.m. on September 9. That is inside the 10-day period that defendant has to file a notice of appeal that would stay the execution. RSMo. 534.350. The docket shows that judgment was entered in this case on August 31, 2015, and the 10-day period, per Rule 44.01, ends on Sept. 10, 2015. Cowherd is attempting an unlawful eviction, during the 10-day period after judgment when eviction is not allowed. Again, eviction is due to be quashed because it is unlawful.

What do we learn from all of this?

* A court issued an order against Carol and me, without having jurisdiction over either of us. That means the court's order was void.

* We've seen no sign of an eviction order signed by a judge, but it really does not matter because the judge (and the court) had no jurisdiction over us anyway.

* The judge was disqualified because she received a flagrantly prejudicial ex parte communications.

* My brother, David Shuler, was not really in the case to represent my mother--Trent Cowherd had no lawful grounds to sue her, and David either knew that or he's one ignorant lawyer. The truth? David was only in the case to help hurt Carol and me--and his letter to Judge Rose proves it. Got to love that family love and support!

* The eviction was conducted during a 10-day period when it could not lawfully take place.

Have Carol and I suffered because of all these screw-ups and the intentional malfeasance/corruption? Well, she has a broken arm that likely will never be the same. We both were handcuffed for no valid reason, she was arrested and taken to jail for no valid reason, an undetermined amount of our personal belongings were stolen by members of Cowherd's eviction crew (per an eye witness who saw them take items and place them in their personal vehicles and drive away.)

Has anyone in my family expressed the slightest concern about the injuries Carol suffered and the trauma we both experienced--I had an assault rifle pointed right at my face? Nope, they still want to have us declared incompetent, although I've heard no news about that case in a while. Has anyone in my family expressed the slightest concern about all of our property that was stolen, thanks to Trent Cowherd's eviction crew? Heck, no. In fact, my brother David has made it clear, in writing, that he backs Trent Cowherd all the way in these proceedings.

Many Americans see the famous image of lady justice, who is blindfolded as she holds a set of perfectly balanced scales. We see that and maybe feel a sense of pride that such a symbol represents our justice system.

The next time you see that image, I hope it will cause you to think of this post. Because this describes the real world of American "justice." The system is badly broken in Alabama, and I'm seeing signs that it's every bit as bad in Missouri.

It's so broken, in fact, that my own brother--with whom I've always gotten along and had a good relationship--has no qualms about stabbing my wife and me right between the shoulder blades. And he's probably helping to provide cover for the individuals who heaped abuse on us.

At the very least, you might think David Shuler would say something like, "Hey, I know a good attorney who I think could help you, both with the case against the sheriff and landlord in Missouri and against the cops and lawyers who abused you in Alabama. I would be glad to contact him (or her) on your behalf." He has said nothing of the sort--not even anything close to that.

In law schools around the country, there must be a large trash bin where students are instructed on the first day of class to place their consciences. Once any sign of a moral compass has been sent to the trash compactor--you likely are never to see it again--the student heads to class.

Three years later, with good luck on the bar exam, a lawyer emerges from the assembly line. But any sign of humanity probably will be gone. I know that's how it's been in my family.

Monday, December 14, 2015

In an effort to protect one of their own, cops can produce lies that qualify as world-class whoppers

Laquan McDonald, on a Chicago street, seconds before
cops shot him 16 times.
When one of their own needs protection against allegations of misconduct, police officers can turn to the kind of fudges and squirms that constitute relatively normal lies--or they can produce monumental whoppers.

We know that from following the Laquan McDonald shooting in Chicago. And we suspect it because of the wrongful eviction that left my wife with a broken arm, courtesy of a Greene County sheriff's deputy in Springfield, Missouri, plus the actions of Alabama deputies that led to my unlawful five-month incarceration in 2013-14.

We will take a closer look at the law-enforcement lies emanating from our Missouri and Alabama experiences in upcoming posts. Those posts specifically will focus on the words and actions of Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott in Missouri and deputies Mike DeHart and Chris Blevins in Alabama.

But first, let's look at the outrageous nature of police dishonesty in the McDonald case. Thanks to video produced because of a free-lance journalist's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, we know cops lied when they claimed McDonald was coming toward them before Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot the 17-year-old--firing 16 shots, many of them at a downward trajectory, indicating McDonald was on the ground as Van Dyke kept shooting. In fact, the video shows, McDonald was walking away from officers.

But a recent Chicago Tribune story, about hundreds of pages of documents the city finally released in the McDonald case, shows that cops can lie with reckless impunity when they feel backed into a corner. Consider this from the Tribune article about statements from cops on the scene of the McDonald shooting:

As is the case with all police shootings, supervisors and union officials came to the scene. Just hours later, the reports suggest the direction the investigation was headed when the department made a preliminary finding that Van Dyke was justified in shooting McDonald.

One report states that three officers were "battered" by McDonald. Another lists Van Dyke as having been injured.

"Based upon information available at the time of this report it is the preliminary determination of the undersigned that Officer Van Dyke fired his weapon in compliance with Department policy. Officer Van Dyke fired his weapon in fear of his life when the offender while armed with a knife continued to approach and refused all verbal direction," Deputy Chief David McNaughton wrote in a report.

Does the video show that McDonald battered three officers, that Van Dyke was injured, and that McDonald continued to approach officers with a knife? Not even close. But the lunacy from officer reports does not end there. In December 2014, based on the reports, the department officially classified the McDonald shooting as a "justifiable homicide." From the Tribune article:

"McDonald committed aggravated assault against the three officers, finally forcing Officer Van Dyke, in defense of his life, to shoot and kill McDonald," according to a report of that determination.

Again and again in reports, Van Dyke's account is supported by the other officers at the scene, each one describing the teen as a threat to the veteran cop. Four officers claimed that McDonald advanced toward Van Dyke, even though the video shows him walking away. Two others said he turned or raised an arm toward him.

Aggravated assault? Van Dyke was in defense of his life? The video shows none of that.

X-ray of Carol Shuler's arm, shattered
by a Missouri deputy
Would it be appropriate, borrowing a crude phrase, to call these cops "no good, lying bastards"? We invite you to watch the video below and come to your own conclusion.

The report provides a glimpse at the kind of disdain some cops have for the public they supposedly are protecting. From the Tribune:

How police viewed the shooting, though, was clear. In the report that closed the investigation, filed in March, a detective offered this terse assessment.

"Criminal attacked officer," the report says, "that officer killed criminal."

Never mind that the video shows McDonald did not attack anyone, that he was walking away when Van Dyke shot him 16 times.

Meanwhile, the cops who wrote these bogus reports might wind up paying a high price, according to the Tribune:

With the video of the shooting as a backdrop, the reports — the first detailed accounts from the officers at the scene — offer a way to examine what Van Dyke and his colleagues say happened. Because they diverge so dramatically from the video, they suggest one possible avenue for additional investigation.

Federal officials also are investigating the shooting. A federal grand jury investigation has involved more than 80 witnesses and branched into possible obstruction of justice by the officers at the scene, sources told the Tribune. In particular, the sources said, federal prosecutors are investigating the officers who made statements as well as the officers who prepared the reports of the statements.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Fusion article on fallout from the Ashley Madison hack spotlights Legal Schnauzer coverage of individuals who appear at the lists of apparent extramarital cheaters

Legal Schnauzer is the only journalism site spotlighted in a national feature story about fallout from a hack of the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affair Web site.

Fusion.net published the story, titled "Scared, dead, relieved: How the Ashley Madison hack changed its victims’ lives," on Wednesday (December 9). Fusion is a multi-platform media company that is a joint venture between ABC Television Group, the Walt Disney Company, and Univision Communications. Launched in 2013, it includes standard television distribution, along with Web and mobile platforms.

Reporter Kristen V. Brown, who has been covering the AM hack since the story broke in August, focuses primarily on the personal repercussions for those whose names appear on lists that have been published at various Web sites.

For a perspective about news coverage on the story, Brown turns to our blog. We've published roughly a dozen posts on the Ashley Madison story, focusing mostly on our recent home bases of Alabama and Missouri. We broke the stories that Alabama AM participants include Bradley Arant lawyer (and son-in-law of former governor Bob Riley) Rob Campbell, al.com reporter Charles J. "Chuck" Dean, and former U.S. Congressman Artur Davis.

We plan many more AM posts, based on our research that shows prominent, highly paid professionals and executives are among the most frequent users of the site--at least in Alabama and Missouri.

Brown interviewed me last Friday and asked mainly about my motivations for covering the story. I told her that I have a bachelor's degree in journalism (B.J., 1978, University of Missouri), with more than 30 years of professional experience in the field, and I consider this an important story on multiple levels. It's a technology story, a privacy (or lack of privacy) story, a psychology story, a sociology story, a religion story, and (perhaps of most importance to me) a class story.

Kristen V. Brown
My research has focused on "elites," and I told Brown that I've been amazed at the number of lawyers, doctors, scientists, computer programmers, wealth managers, engineers, CEOs, corporate vice presidents, and other seemingly bright individuals who were stupid enough to sign up for what (in my view) should have been seen as a scam right off the bat. From Brown's article:

Roger Shuler, a Missouri blogger, used his site, Legal Schnauzer, to out a prominent attorney and a local journalist in his former home state of Alabama, as well as the names of local companies who had executives with names on the list.

“It’s of interest to the public,” he told me, assuring me he would never print the name of “just some guy who runs an auto parts store.”

While people use Ashley Madison for all kinds of reasons—in open relationships, for example, or to mentally escape abusive ones—Shuler had a hard time accepting that people might use the site for any reason other than a lack of moral character.

“I’ve been married for 26 years and I treat marriage seriously,” he said. “I’m just amazed that in this country where people seem to trumpet their Christian values we treat christian marriage so shabbily. A lot of people on the Alabama list are people who make judgments about us all the time, so it’s relevant to expose what kind of judgement they use themselves.”

Brown notes that the story has grown particularly firm legs in the supposedly conservative South--and my interest grew because the Alabama list includes numerous immediately recognizable names. My guess is that the most prominent names self-identify as "pro family" Republicans. Writes Brown:

In the U.S., at least, the worst of the fallout seemed to happen in the south, where small community websites and blogs published the names of locals who used the site. Sometimes they were organized by zip code, making cheating neighbors especially easy to find. In Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, conservative Southern politics, religion and the nature of close-knit rural culture turned the internet into a small-town pillory.

In Hartselle, Alabama, Mayor Don Hall was forced to resign despite denying ever having used the site. The names of many public officials (like President Barack Obama, for one) appeared in the leak even though they weren’t users, because Ashley Madison didn’t require that users verify e-mail addresses before creating an account.

Brown provides important perspective on the fallout:

Among the rubble of the Ashley Madison hack, I’ve counted at least three suicides, two toppled family values evangelists, one ousted small-town mayor, a disgraced state prosecutor and countless stories of extortion and divorce. The blast radius of a database dump, it seems, is very large indeed. . . .

Tom*, a 65-year-old user in Nebraska told me that he paid off blackmailers after receiving one of the many e-mails threatening to out users to their spouse.

An East Coast woman who had found her husband in the leak and considered divorcing him said that the hack ultimately helped repair a long-widening chasm in their marriage that neither of them had addressed. He told her he signed up before they got married and never bought the credits necessary to send messages to women, a claim I was able to help her verify in looking at his transaction records.

One person I talked to found their father in the hack, affirming long-held suspicions that he was a cheater. Another user said that after contemplating suicide, he decided to come clean to his wife, and that she forgave him. Yet another, who has lost 13 pounds since the hack due to stress, was now hopeful after his wife agreed to marriage counseling.

Other suspected post-hack outcomes, like the Pentagon cracking down on members of the military who used the site given adultery being a crime, never materialized. But, unlike the leak itself, most of the aftermath unfolded behind closed bedroom doors. Its full effect is difficult to discern.

I agree with Brown on that. One question that has gone unanswered: Why has Ashley Madison, and its tag line "Life is short, have an affair," been so attractive to upper-class, mostly white, professional men?

One might think that such individuals would be too savvy or busy to get involved with a shady outfit like Ashley Madison. (The site's whole purpose is to perpetuate cheating, so why should customers be surprised when the company cheats them by failing to protect their data?) You also might think that, with more assets than the average person to lose in a divorce, the well-to-do would be uber careful about getting involved.

But our research indicates that is not the case. And we think that story needs to be told.

Is it possible that quite a few people who help run major companies and institutions have more money and power than common sense? Is it possible they have too much time on their hands? If they are willing to cheat on their spouses, and possibly heap embarrassment on their children, how are they likely to treat customers?

We will examine all of those questions, and more, in upcoming posts.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dothan TV reporter perpetuates myths about the Rob Riley and Liberty Duke story, so we are here to set the record straight and help launch a panel discussion

Ken Curtis, of WTVY in Dothan
How could a journalist be blindingly ignorant of First Amendment law, which to a great degree forms the foundation for his profession? If the journalist is not up to speed on the First Amendment, how could he be so lazy as to not even attempt to research the subject before reporting on it?

Those are some of the questions that come to mind in the wake of a piece by Ken Curtis, senior reporter at WTVY in Dothan, Alabama, which trashed Web-based journalism in general--and Legal Schnauzer, in particular.

In taking a swipe at our coverage of the relationship between Republican lawyer/politico Rob Riley (son of former governor Bob Riley) and lobbyist Liberty Duke, Curtis proves that he knows zero about the facts surrounding the case--and maybe even sub-zero about the relevant law.

We sent an e-mail to Curtis, in a good-faith effort to set the record straight and hopefully help educate his viewers on a subject that is pretty darned important under the U.S. Constitution. But Curtis has not responded, so we can only assume that he is not in the business of enlightening the masses.

That leaves us to take matters into our own hands by sharing the e-mail that lays out facts and law with which Curtis obviously is not familiar. Here is the missive we sent to Mr. Curtis, with a copy to his boss, news director Kim Allen, at 2:42 p.m. on December 7:

Mr. Curtis:

I write the blog Legal Schnauzer, which you noted in the above-referenced article. Here is the notation about my blog:

"Some have threatened lawsuits against Carroll for false reporting though, to our knowledge, none have been filed. However, the man behind the Alabama-based website Legal Schnauzer was recently jailed for several months after refusing to remove unproven reports involving the son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley."

I think you should know the following:

* I have a bachelor's degree in journalism (B.J., 1978, University of Missouri), with more than 35 years of professional experience in the field. The defamation lawsuit that Rob Riley and Liberty Duke filed against me in fall 2013 was the first such case in my career.

* First Amendment law in the U.S. requires that defamation cases must be heard at trial, by a jury, to ensure that a single judge does not, in essence, act as a one-man censor. The Riley/Duke case against me never went to trial, never was heard by a jury. A judge (Claud Neilson), in fact, acted as one-man censor, contrary to law--and he did it in a case where there was no discovery. Riley and Duke never sat for depositions, never answered interrogatories, never turned over documents--they did nothing to prove their case in an adversarial setting.

* Your piece implies that it's common practice for reporters to be jailed in defamation cases. In fact, there is no provision of law for incarceration under such circumstances. It appears that I am the only journalist in U.S. history to be imprisoned because of a preliminary injunction that is expressly forbidden by Near v. Minnesota (U.S. Supreme Court, 1931), which is considered the "foundational" case of the 20th century on the subject.

* My reporting never has been found false and defamatory at trial. In other words, Riley and Duke did not come close to meeting their burden of proof. I gave up five months of my freedom for practicing journalism and writing a story that has not been proven to be anything other than true.

* Rob Riley has made no statement under oath that my reporting was false. As a lawyer, he could face serious repercussions for making a false statement under oath.

Please accept this as a formal request for an interview, so that you and I can shine light on the actual facts and law surrounding the Riley/Duke case. I think it would be a great idea for you to also interview Rob Riley and Liberty Duke and their respective attorneys (Jay Merrill, of Birmingham, and Christina Crow, of Union Springs). In fact, I would love to take part in a televised panel discussion, if your station is willing to host such an event.

As it stands now, you have given the public a wildly skewed and inaccurate portrayal of what took place in the Riley/Duke case. I submit that it's important to set the record straight, and I would welcome the opportunity to do so.

Best regards,

Roger Shuler

Three key takeaway points from all of this?

(1) The Riley/Duke lawsuit, contrary to law, never went to trial and never went before a jury. Judge Claud Neilson violated federal law by acting as one-man censor.

(2) My reporting was not proven false or defamatory at trial; there was no trial. Riley/Duke never came close to meeting their burden of proving my posts were false.

(3) There are no provisions under state or federal law for a preliminary injunction in a defamation case, which could lead to incarceration of a journalist for writing a story that has not been proven to be anything other than true.

Liberty Duke
(4) Even Rob Riley has not made a sworn statement claiming my reporting was false--no affidavit, no answer to an interrogatory, no answer to adversarial questions in a deposition or open court. Nothing, nada, zilch. Riley's own actions indicate the story is true.

Finally, I am absolutely serious about the highlighted section above. I dearly would love to be involved in a panel discussion about the Riley/Duke case. My incarceration drew international news coverage, and while many of the stories were solid and well reported, I'm not sure any of them has fully explained that my treatment was so grossly unlawful that . . . well, it should make any constitutional scholar want to vomit. Heck, it should make any sentient citizen want to puke.

So I hereby challenge Rob Riley and Liberty Duke, and their attorneys Jay Murrill and Christina Crow, to a panel discussion--hosted and televised live by WTVY, of Dothan. Heck, Ken Curtis can even serve as moderator, and I would be glad to help him get boned up on the relevant facts and law in advance.

What are the chances that any of the individuals above will take up this challenge? I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Alabama TV reporter reveals ignorance of the First Amendment in attack on Web press and our coverage of the Rob Riley and Liberty Duke relationship

Ken Curtis, of WTVY
An Alabama television reporter recently took several swipes at the Web-based press, including our little operation here at Legal Schnauzer. We have no problem with thoughtful, constructive, fact-based criticism, but the piece from Ken Curtis, a senior reporter with WTVY in Dothan, was none of those things. In fact, those who read or viewed his piece likely were less informed about the issues afterward than they were going in.

We contacted Curtis via e-mail in an effort to set the record straight and maybe even help educate his viewers on important First-Amendment issues. But we haven't heard back from Curtis, or news director Kim Allen, so we can only assume they aren't interested in helping viewers understand a subject that forms the foundation for our democracy.

Curtis' article is titled "Is Freedom of the Press Too Free These Days?"--an odd title, to be sure, from someone purporting to be a journalist. It's kind of like Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, writing an article titled, "Do Banks Have Too Darned Much Money?"

Curtis' primary target is the Henry County Report, a blog published by Jon Carroll from his base in southeast Alabama, and its recent investigative series about Dothan police officers and their alleged tendency over the years to plant drugs and weapons on young black males, leading to a series of bogus convictions over roughly a 10-year period. The explosive report garnered considerable attention in both the Web and mainstream press before a number of outlets started questioning Carroll's reporting and largely backed off the story.

What to make of the report from Carroll's blog? It's too early to say where the story is headed, but we are not going to join the race to distance ourselves from the reporting. Given our experience with corrupt police officers in multiple states (Alabama and Missouri), we would not put much of anything past law-enforcement officers--especially as we learn more about efforts to cover up the Laquan McDonald shooting in Chicago.

Rob Riley
From a journalistic standpoint, Carroll published an article two days ago ("Victims Come Forward and Describe Dothan’s Narcotics Team Terrorizing the Black Community for Years") that appears to provide solid support for his original report.

As for Legal Schnauzer, WTVY's Mr. Curtis could not resist taking a bone-headed shot at us. It's based on our coverage of the relationship between Birmingham lawyer Rob Riley (son of former governor Bob Riley) and lobbyist Liberty Duke, which led to my five-month incarceration in the Shelby County Jail after Riley and Duke filed a defamation lawsuit. Here are Curtis' words on the subject, with a reference to heat that the Henry County Report and Jon Carroll have generated:

Some have threatened lawsuits against Carroll for false reporting though, to our knowledge, none have been filed. However, the man behind the Alabama-based website Legal Schnauzer was recently jailed for several months after refusing to remove unproven reports involving the son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley.

A reasonable person could read that paragraph and come to the following conclusions:

* Journalists are incarcerated all the time because of defamation lawsuits; it's a regular thing, an "occupational hazard" for reporters, you might say;

* My incarceration was proper, based solidly on provisions of law that provide such a remedy for those who claim they have been the victims of false and defamatory reporting.;

Both of  those conclusions, of course, are wildly off target. The imprisonment of journalists in defamation cases almost never happens--and our research shows I probably am the only journalist in U.S. history to be jailed under circumstances present in the Riley/Duke case--because of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that are contrary to 230 years of First Amendment law.

Liberty Duke
More importantly, no U.S. law exists to support my incarceration. In fact, Near v. Minnesota (U.S. Supreme Court, 1931), considered the "foundational" 20th century case on the subject, specifically prohibits such preliminary injunctions as "prior restraints."

Did Ken Curtis bother to clue in his readers on any of this? Not in the original article. Does he intend to correct the record, based on accurate information I sent him? Doesn't look like it.

That leaves me to take matters into my own hands, which I will do by sharing the e-mail that WTVY apparently does not want you to see.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Noble Communications, Carol Jones Realtors, Jack Henry, and Palmer Oliver law firm are among SW Missouri firms housing Ashley Madison customers

Some of the best-known health-care facilities and law firms in the Ozarks region of southwest Missouri have high-level employees who appear as paying customers at the Ashley Madison (IM) extramarital-affair Web site.

Also represented on the list . . . an advertising agency with a national footprint and a base in Chicago (Noble Communications), a finance/technology company with locations in roughly 20 states (Jack Henry and Associates), one of the largest mortgage companies in the Midwest (Gershman Mortgage), and two of the area's most vibrant real-estate firms (Murney and Associates and Carol Jones Realtors).

Health-care facilities represented include Cox Health Center, Mercy Medical Center, Smith Glynn Callaway Clinic, Missouri Eye Institute, and Ferrell Duncan Clinic.

The legal community is well represented, including Palmer Oliver law firm, Chaney and McCurry law firm, Turner Reid Duncan law firm, Norrid and Robertson law firm, Appleby Healy law firm, Crites law firm, and more.

Springfield is the third largest city in Missouri, with a population of about 164,000. It's closest comparator in Alabama probably is Huntsville (186,000), with Springfield's economy evolving around health care and education (the city is home to Missouri State University, Drury University, and Evangel University, plus a highly regarded public-schools system), and Huntsville's featuring space-related research, technology, engineering, and the military.

The business centers of Missouri are Kansas City (467,000) and St. Louis (318,000). The metro St. Louis area of 2.8 million is the state's largest, followed by Kansas City metro at 2.1 million.

Our research, so far, has focused only on the Ozarks region around Springfield. We will get to St. Louis and Kansas City later, but we already can see a trend that is apparent in Alabama. High-end professionals and executives--lawyers, doctors, bankers, engineers, educators--are big-time users of Ashley Madison services, even though the Web site apparently offers little in the way of actual services.

Focusing on the Springfield area, here is what our Missouri research shows so far. You might say this is the tip of the Show-Me State's AM iceberg.

Missouri companies or institutions with one or more Ashley Madison customers

* Smith Glynn Callaway Clinic

* Jack Henry and Associates

* Missouri State University

* Murney and Associates

* Noble Counseling

* Incredible Pizza

* Norrid and Robertson law firm

* Cox Health Center

* Carol Jones Realtors

* Missouri Eye Institute

Noble Communications, home to at least one Ashley
Madison customer in Springfield, MO
(From iamchrisbrewer.com)
* Drury University

* Crites law firm

* Executive Coach Builders

* Springfield First Community Bank

* Palmer Oliver law firm

* Chaney and McCurry law firm

* Ferrell Duncan Clinic

* Turner Reid Duncan law firm

* Noble Communications

* Gorman-Scharpf Funeral Home

* Appleby Healy law firm

* Gershman Mortgage

* Mercy Medical Center