Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Is Rob Riley leading a scheme to threaten witnesses, leading some to "soften" their answers from what they had stated previously in the Mike Hubbard case?

Rob Riley
Testimony in Week One of the Mike Hubbard trial suggests someone tampered with a witness. The No. 1 suspect is Birmingham attorney Rob Riley, son of former GOP governor Bob Riley, according to a report yesterday from Bill Britt, publisher of Alabama Political Reporter (APR).

The issue surfaced last Thursday with the testimony of Dr. Don Williamson, former state health officer and now president of the Alabama Hospital Association. A series of witnesses had made it clear that Hubbard, speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, was directly involved with placing language into the General Fund Budget that would give his client, American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI), a monopoly on the state's lucrative Medicaid prescriptions.

In pre-trial interviews with prosecutors, Williamson apparently agreed with other witnesses that Hubbard played a central role in having the APCI language placed in the budget. But on the stand last week, Williamson said others had placed the language in the budget, and Hubbard played a key role in removing it.

The statement so shocked prosecutor Matt Hart that he turned quickly on his heels and asked Williamson, "Have you been threatened?" Sources told Britt that they knew Williamson's altered testimony was coming:

By all indications from the prosecution, Williamson’s testimony had significantly changed from what he had previously told them. Reliable sources say they learned Williamson’s testimony had been compromised. The two sources, who asked to remain anonymous, have informed APR that they knew Williamson was going to “walk back” his testimony 24 hours before he took the stand.

Who would pull such a stunt, the kind that tramples any notion of fairness in our justice system? Britt was quick to point a finger at Rob Riley, calling the trial "covert warfare between Justice and Riley Inc., with consigliere Rob Riley as mastermind of the behind-the-scenes, mob-style tactics."

Britt, in so many words, accuses Rob Riley and his associates of engaging in organized crime. I've been raising that point for quite some time, particularly since Riley used a bogus defamation lawsuit to have law enforcement kidnap me and throw me in jail for five months, with clear evidence that the mafia-style plans included kidnapping my wife, Carol, too. We strongly suspect that if Carol had been abducted and thrown in jail, too, we both likely would have been killed, along with our pets.

Is it any wonder Matt Hart asked if Dr. Don Williamson had been threatened. And God only knows the nature of any threats directed at Williamson. Why does Britt view Riley as "Public Animal No. 9" (to borrow a phrase from Alice Cooper, one that certainly seems to fit Rob Riley)? Here is more from yesterday's article at APR:

Rob, the son of former Gov. Bob Riley, is believed to have directed Hubbard’s defense from the outset. It is also believed it was Rob who chose J. Mark White for the public relations phase of the defense, and Rob who schemed out the interlocking legal strategy that would lead to Baxley. It is Rob who has twisted arms to raise money for Hubbard’s defense, according to several sources, and it is Rob who is thought to be behind witnesses “softening” their testimony, and in some cases, change it, as did Williamson.

Britt goes on to describe Riley as a man "whose world view is colored by the privilege of power, situational ethics and a family dynamic that demands loyalty, even to crooks like Hubbard." Britt is being much too kind here, in my view. I don't think Riley has any ethics, situational or otherwise. Having seen Riley a time or two in person, I could not help notice that he has a distinct reptilian quality. He is pure molten evil, a man so warped by his family dynamic that I don't think there is any chance of him ever being reformed.

Rob Riley's debased nature apparently rubs off on those around him. Writes Britt:

Rob sat in court the first two days of the trial taking notes and consulting Baxley during breaks in the proceedings. He was accompanied by his younger associate, Jeremiah Mosley, a tall, thin, boy-man with an overly aggressive handshake and a need to impress.

After Williamson shocked the prosecution with his altered testimony, Mosley asked this reporter, “How did you like that?” With this, Mosley broke an unwritten law in cheating: “Never gloat.” But like any amateur, with an oversized opinion of his own self-worth, the baby-faced Mosley couldn’t resist the need to have someone recognize his brilliance.

Mosley's law-firm bio states that he and his wife, and two daughters, are active members of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Cahaba Heights. That appears to be a common Riley Inc. strategy, engaging in church activities to appear righteous while applying underhanded legal and political tactics that should make any genuine Christian wretch. Rob Riley reportedly was a deacon at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood.

Jeremiah Mosley
Mosley, by the way, was involved in the case where I essentially was kidnapped--becoming the first U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006, and apparently the only one in U.S. history to be jailed because of a preliminary injunction that has been prohibited in defamation cases under First Amendment law for more than 200 years.

One could conclude that Rob Riley is among the sleaziest attorneys ever to practice in the United States. He thought of a way to cheat an opposing party that no other U.S. lawyer ever had come up with. Now, that is some kind of achievement!

Lesson: Never underestimate how far Rob Riley might go to achieve his objectives, no matter how warped they might be.

Is witness tampering likely to be a "one off" at the Hubbard trial, involving Dr. Don Williamson, but no other witnesses. Doesn't look like it. Writes Britt:

Rumors abound that Riley Inc. has convinced others to “soften” or alter their testimony. Ferrell Patrick, lobbyist for American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI), has been mentioned as one of the witness who may flip, as is former Rep. Greg Wren. According to those close to the Rileys, the plan is to blame Wren for placing the 23 words in the Medicaid portion of the General Fund Budget that would have given Hubbard’s client, APCI, a monopoly over the multi-million Medicaid pharmacy program. . . .

Patrick and Wren are the State’s star witnesses regarding Hubbard’s involvement in placing language in the budget to give his paying client a monopoly over the Medicaid pharmacy program.

Most court observers believe that Hubbard’s role in the pharmacy monopoly scheme was perhaps the easiest to prove and the most damning. Those close to the Rileys say Rob believes if he can kill this charge, then the others will be much easier to defeat. Perhaps this is why Mosley couldn’t help taking credit for punking the jury.

Why is Erik Davis Harp not being charged with violating Florida law that prohibits carrying a gun (not to mention ammunition) into a courthouse?

Erik Davis Harp
Erik Davis Harp did not just carry a concealed handgun into a Florida courthouse; he also had ammunition, court documents show. Also, Harp is facing a single charge of carrying a concealed firearm into a government building (the Bay County Courthouse). But court records indicate Harp also violated a Florida statute that prohibits taking a gun, with or without a permit, into a courthouse. Why is Harp not facing at least one additional charge?

According to court documents, Harp did not get very far at the courthouse when he was arrested in mid March. Here is part of an affidavit from the arresting officer: (See full document at the end of this post.)

On March 15, 2016, at approximately 0930 am, the suspect in this case, Erik D. Harp, did possess a firearm and ammunition in a concealed manner while entering the Bay County Courthouse X-ray screening area. Affiant states that the suspect, Harp, stated he did not have a lawful concealed carry permit for the State of Florida or any reciprocal state.
This tells us that Erik Harp's gun was loaded, or he possessed ammunition to load it. In other words, officers' ability to detect the weapon at the screening area might have prevented a nightmarish scene.

Ironically, the officer's affidavit seems to downplay the seriousness of the offense. Our research indicates it was irrelevant that Harp did not have a permit. Florida Statute 790.06(12)(a) states:

(12)(a) A license issued under this section does not authorize any person to openly carry a handgun or carry a concealed weapon or firearm into: 
1. Any place of nuisance as defined in s. 823.05;

2. Any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station;

3. Any detention facility, prison, or jail;

4. Any courthouse;

Even with a permit, Erik Harp could not lawfully carry a firearm into a courthouse.  So why isn't he being charged with a violation of 790.06(12)(a)?

Here is the kind of irony that can happen with the law in a gun-crazy state (in the South, Midwest, Great Plains, or elsewhere.) A rational citizen might say, "Trying to carry a concealed handgun and ammunition into a courthouse seems like a much more serious offense than carrying a concealed weapon, without a permit, in a regular public place--say, a park or a grocery store."

Bay County (Florida) Courthouse
Such a rational citizen would be wrong when it comes to Florida law. Carrying a gun into a courthouse, violating Florida Statute 790.061(12)(a), is a second-degree misdemeanor. It carries a maximum penalty of 60 days imprisonment.

In contrast, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

Under Florida law, which appears to be goofy, Harp is being charged with the more serious of two offenses. But it seems clear that he also violated state law that prohibits taking a gun into a courthouse, with or without a permit.

In fact, it seems prosecutors are trying to take the courthouse element out of the equation. It's as if Harp was caught with a concealed weapon while walking down a sidewalk. But that is not what happened, and public records suggest Harp was planning actions that could have resulted in multiple fatalities.

Is Erik Davis Harp being undercharged in this case? If so, why?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Will grand-jury investigation into Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason scandal examine efforts to retaliate against citizen journalists, Donald Watkins and me?

Robert Bentley
The investigation of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason has been turned over to a federal grand jury, according to a report yesterday at al.com. That has special resonance here at Legal Schnauzer because, based on multiple news reports, the Bentley administration likely has taken illegal actions against citizen journalists--attorney Donald Watkins and me.

For some good news, Watkins reports on his Facebook page this morning that Bentley's "House of Fraud is Collapsing," that the governor and some of his top aides are toast.

On the bad-news side, my little family unit is suffering, physically and emotionally, forced to live like refugees in a hostile environment. If justice ever comes, I'm not sure we will survive to see it.

The illegal use of government resources to retaliate against journalists might go beyond Watkins and me--to include, in my case, a spouse and a furry loved one. My wife, Carol, and I, since being forced to move to our current (and hopefully temporary) location in Springfield, Missouri, have seen evidence that suggests Alabama and Missouri forces have engaged in a coordinated effort to steal many of our personal belongings, force us to the edge of homelessness, terrorize us with handguns and at least one assault weapon, and force us to live in a week-by-week flea-bag motel whose charms include bed-bug infestations and meth dealers around the corner.

In fact, one member of our family is suffering from physical symptoms that we think might be caused by an allergic reaction to bed bugs and the nasty residue they leave behind. But we don't have the resources to seek treatment. At the moment, we are not sure we can pay next week's rent, which means the roof over our heads might soon disappear.

In short, some of the same bad actors present in the Mike Hubbard trial--Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Luther Strange, Bill Baxley, perhaps Hubbard himself, and likely others--have tried to ruin us. And they might be pretty close to achieving that objective.

This is the real-world price a journalist can pay for daring to report accurately about the conservative-based corruption that has taken over our state at least since 1995, when Karl Rove helped Republican Perry Hooper become chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court--in an uber close election that featured the kind of skulduggery we would see again in the 2000 Gore-Bush presidential race and the 2002 Siegelman-Riley gubernatorial race in Alabama.

Do you notice a trend here? Vote totals that once favor the Democrat, suddenly favor the Republican; ballots are either lost, not counted, or sealed; recounts that favor the Republican are held, but those that might favor the Democrat are denied or conducted in slipshod fashion. End result: The Rove/Republican candidate always wins.

Where do Bentley and Mason fit into this? Well, they entered into "public service" with a clear sense of entitlement. And why shouldn't they? The previous 15 years had taught them that Republicans--if they were white, conservative, and claimed Jesus as their guide--could get away with anything. Mike Hubbard decided to jump on that train, and he's now in Day 3 of a criminal trial on 23 counts of ethics-law violations.

Bentley and Mason also went for a wild ride on the "Sleaze Train," and they now face grand-jury scrutiny. This is from al.com's John Archibald:

The investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley, and the fallout of his relationship with former adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, is apparently moving to the grand jury.

A letter sent by a federal prosecutor to lawyers of people who have been questioned by the FBI in the Bentley affair, explains that George Beck, U.S. Attorney in Alabama's Middle District, recused himself from the investigation. He has been replaced on the case by a U.S. Attorney from Georgia.

Jonathan Ross, assistant U.S. Attorney in the Middle District, wrote the letter under the subject "Grand Jury Investigation." The note is the first evidence that Bentley's relationship with Mason or his attempts to hide that relationship is being examined by a grand jury.

It has already been made clear that investigators from the FBI, the IRS, the U.S. Postal Service and state agencies have begun asking questions of former Bentley staffers, executive security officers and others who were at one time close to the governor.

Meanwhile, Watkins indicates federal investigators are moving forward in a hurry, and the Bentley ship is about to sink:

Federal investigators are closing in on Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and his widespread criminal racketeering enterprise. This enterprise operates straight out of the governor’s office. . . .  
The end of Bentley’s criminal enterprise is rapidly approaching. His “House of Fraud” is collapsing. Bentley will be indicted and tried on federal racketeering and public corruption charges.

Earlier this month, Bentley lost a protective law enforcement shield that was provided to him by Montgomery U.S. Attorney George Beck, Jr., a staunch Bentley ally. Beck’s entire office has been removed from the ongoing criminal investigation by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in Washington, acting in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta. Beck’s coziness with the Bentley Administration disappointed the public, infuriated his staff, and was eventually too much for the DOJ to bear.

What else points to rough sledding ahead for the governor? Watkins spells it out, making reference to the governor's retaliatory efforts against the two journalists who broke the Bentley/Mason sex scandal. Al.com, perhaps sniffing a Pulitizer Prize in the future, has taken a serious interest in the story since audiotapes surfaced of Bentley talking of caressing Mason's breasts and happily exploring her nether regions.

But the story likely never would have gotten that far without the reporting Watkins and I did last August and September. In fact, al.com spent much of its time last fall attacking the reporter, me, who first reported on the sex scandal and mentioned Mason by name. The mainstream press mostly tried to ignore Watkins, even though he's proven to have spot-on inside information.

Writes Watkins in today's Facebook post:

In March 2016, the Alabama Council for Excellent Government (“ACEGov”), Bentley’s 501(c)(4) slush fund for channeling “dark money” to Rebekah Mason, essentially shut down. Federal investigators have subpoenaed the financial records of this “girlfriend” fund. In 2015, Mason received payments from ACEGov without the knowledge or approval of its board of directors.

In March 2016, Bentley fired Spencer Collier, the former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, for refusing the governor’s direct order to lie to state prosecutors in House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s criminal case and for refusing to use federal criminal databases to harass and retaliate against online journalists Roger Alan Shuler and me. Collier is cooperating with federal investigators.

Chief of staff Seth Hammett, executive assistant Wanda Kelly, chief of executive security Wendell Ray Lewis, communications director Jennifer Ardis, and a host of other staffers have also departed the governor’s office in what can only be described as an orderly exodus. Remaining staffers are quietly looking for other jobs. They all think the governor is erratic, delusional, and paranoid. Bentley, who is a known habitual liar, has already started blaming some of the departing staff members for his misdeeds.

If it's proven that Bentley participated in the trauma our family unit has experienced in Missouri--not to mention my bogus incarceration and the likely theft of our house in Alabama--I hope the feds nail him on the tallest cross they can find. And if there is an especially warm corner of Hell, I hope Robert Bentley, Rebekah Mason, and their fellow pieces of pond scum roast there for eternity.

I only hope there is another warm corner reserved for Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Bill Baxley, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Bill Swatek and many others who have tried to run our lives--all because we vowed not to sit back and quietly take gross courtroom corruption.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

We've been writing for years about corruption connected to the Swatek family, and surprise, that largely was the focus of Day 1 in Mike Hubbard trial

Tim Howe
(From al.com)
No one could have known it at the time, but when Legal Schnauzer started in June 2007, it essentially presaged the opening day of the Mike Hubbard trial.

Quite a few of our early posts documented the corruption that had been swirling around Pelham attorney Bill Swatek for years. Swatek filed a bogus lawsuit against me on behalf of our criminally inclined neighbor, Mike McGarity, and the unlawful rulings of Shelby County judges in that case prompted me to start this blog. It also drove my wife, Carol, and me into an ugly conservative world populated by GOP dirt bags like Karl Rove, Bill Canary, and Bob and Rob Riley.

What does this have to do with the Hubbard case? Well, the only two witnesses called as the trial opened yesterday were Tim Howe and John Ross, both partners in the Montgomery-based consulting/lobbying firm Swatek Howe and Ross. The chief partner, Dax Swatek, has not testified, but he is on the state's extensive witness list.

This is a story of apples not falling far from the tree.

Speaking of trees, Dax Swatek comes from a decidedly unwholesome family tree. His father is Bill Swatek, whose record of sleaze in the legal profession dates back some 35 years. (See here, here, and here.) His late brother, Chace Swatek, was a lawyer whose body was found beside a Pelham highway after he reportedly had died from huffing. His sister, Barret Swatek, could be called a fading Hollywood actress, but she never had much of a star to begin with. Perhaps her most significant claim to fame is having dated producer Mike De Luca, who is known for engaging in fist fights, drunken driving and public blow jobs. Barret Swatek puts her conservative family values on display by dating guys like that.

As for the Hubbard trial, it started with two witnesses who have strong ties to the dysfunctional Swatek clan. Not surprisingly, the witnesses testified to acts that were so corrupt that they were almost comical. What do you know . . . Bill Swatek's law career is filled with corrupt acts that are downright comical.

Bill Swatek
Tim Howe took the stand yesterday and promptly admitted to using a pass-through company to funnel money to Hubbard--but ol' Tim made the unilateral decision to skim five percent off the top. How very Swatekian of him.

John Ross testified about a meeting designed to create a favorable position for his client, American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI). How favorable was the proposed legislation to be for APCI? It would give the company a monopoly on Medicaid prescription in Alabama. That's pretty favorable.

When Ross learned from a lobbyist that Hubbard was taking boatloads of cash from APCI, he was angry because of the obvious ethics problems that presented. Was Ross concerned that he had rigged the Medicaid system to benefit one company, his client? Was Ross concerned this might be a bad deal for Alabamians. Based on news reports of yesterday's proceedings, the answer appears to be no. Ross, it seems, was concerned because Hubbard's actions had increased the chances of someone getting caught. Again, how very Swatekian.

How bad is Bill Swatek, who could be called the "Father of All Corruption Described So Far in the Hubbard Trial"? I've written dozens of posts on that subject, but here is my favorite story.

In the late 1970s, Swatek represented a Pelham policeman named Johnny Bailey in an employment case. During depositions, Swatek allowed opposing counsel to use his office for what they thought was a private meeting. But Swatek surreptitiously tape recorded them. The opposing attorneys found the running tape recorder and confronted Swatek with it. He eventually told multiple bar committees that he knew nothing about the recorder, it had been his client's idea to use it. Swatek was charged with perjury, and somehow was acquitted at trial, even though the following section from the audiotape was presented to the jury:

William E. Swatek and Johnny Bailey on cassette tape taken by Paul G. Smith from Swatek's office on May 30, 1979:

Swatek: "Testing . . . one . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five . . . "

Bailey: ". . . 'cause that's the one probably to use, or do you want to use that one?"

Swatek: "I'd rather use this one, 'cause you can't hear it at all, and I can stick it down under the desk and . . . "

Swatek obviously knew about the tape recording. He decided which recorder to use, where to place it, and he tested it. He clearly lied under oath to the bar committees about it. But still a jury--which almost had to somehow be tainted--found him not guilty.

No wonder partners in the Swatek Howe Rowe firm think they can get away with anything. No wonder Mike Hubbard thinks he can be found not guilty.

Below is a portion of the transcript from Bill Swatek's 1981 trial. Don't be surprised if something just as nutty emerges from the Hubbard trial.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Investigation into the Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason scandal in Alabama now rests in the hands of a federal prosecutor from Georgia

Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
The investigation of Governor Robert Bentley now is directed by a federal prosecutor from Georgia after the recusal of George Beck, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama.

John A. Horn, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, now is in charge of the probe, according to a report from Alabama Political Reporter (APR). The Public Integrity Section (PIN), of the U.S. Department of Justice, remains involved with the case. From APR's Bill Britt:

Horn, a career prosecutor, was appointed by the Obama administration in 2015, for the district that runs from the mountains of northern Georgia to the Atlanta suburbs in the south, and from the western border of Alabama to the two Carolinas in the east. The primary office is located in the US courthouse in Atlanta.

Bentley continues to claim he has done nothing unethical, or illegal. He recently reminded voters that God had chosen him to lead the State, and that he would finish that mission.

It appears Bentley is not taking the situation seriously. But Britt indicates the governor would be wise to change his mindset:

A task force from the FBI, the Postmaster General, and the IRS is conducting the investigation into allegations of obstruction of justice, fraudulent use of campaign contributions, improper use of State resources, and other potential criminal acts, according to former Bentley confidants, and staffers, who are cooperating with the investigators. The most serious scrutiny surrounds Bentley’s involvement with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, his former senior advisor, and alleged paramour.

Mason’s husband, Jon is also a topic of inquiry, as well as current Bentley staffers, and former insiders, who have been interviewed (All speaking on background, as to not compromise their role in the criminal investigation).

The probe is going well beyond, Bentley and the Masons, Britt reports:

Current staffers whose names have been mentioned in interviews are, Aide-de-camp Jake Jacobs, Director of Federal and Local Government Affairs Zach Lee, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, Jon Barganier, according to two prominent sources. While there are no allegations of wrongdoing, by those individuals at this time there are serious questions being asked about a potential cover-up within the administration. Those who are believed to be under the greatest threat are ALEA Chief, Stan Stabler, and SBI Director, Gene Wiggins. Stabler has publicly made several statements and taken official actions in his roll as “Top Cop,” which has lead to his prominence as a suspect in a cover-up within ALEA and in the Bentley camp.

John A. Horn
(From cbslocal.com)
 Stabler has denied closing a case involving State Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City), as well as other criminal investigations. He has also stated that former ALEA Chief, Spencer Collier and others, were under investigation for misuse of State funds/resources.

While the federal probe into Bentley has taken on new life, the investigation by agents from the Alabama ethics commission has similarly entered a new phase, with another round of subpoenas being issued last week, according to those close to the investigation.

Why did Beck recuse himself from the case? It likely goes back to his days as a lawyer with the Montgomery firm Capell and Howard, which is known as Karl Rove's headquarters when he visits our fine state. Writes Britt:

The investigation into Governor Robert Bentley has taken a new turn, with the recusal of US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, George Beck. Those with knowledge of the investigation believe that Beck’s recusal is due to his long association with donor’s, consultants, and advisors, who have been been involved in various capacities with the Bentley administration.

Beck's exit almost certainly is not good news for Bentley and Co. Beck apparently has been acting like a retiree on the job. John A. Horn probably does not approach his work that way.

With Beck’s recusal, and the introduction of a host of outside players, Bentley, Mason, and others may face an uncertain future, as the weight of justice closes in on this beleaguered administration.

Mike Hubbard might be on trial, but new evidence has surfaced to suggest Robert Bentley and Bob Riley are Alabama's most corrupt politicians of recent vintage

Franklin Haney
(From timesfreepress.com)
A national magazine recently asked, "Is Mike Hubbard the most corrupt politician in America?" My initial reaction was, "Heck, I'm not sure Mike Hubbard is even the most corrupt politician in Alabama."

As Hubbard's criminal trial gets set to take flight today in Lee County, it might be time to reconsider that question. That's especially true in light of new evidence that indicates perhaps the two most corrupt politicians in Alabama history have been charged with . . . well, nothing--and they aren't Mike Hubbard.

Will these two alley cats finally get the law-enforcement attention they so richly deserve? Will they both testify in the Hubbard trial and be, at least partially, unmasked? Well, they have proven slippery so far.

We are talking about current governor, Robert Bentley, and his predecessor, Bob Riley. In an article that (surprise!) proves al.com actually is capable of producing meaningful journalism, reporters Kyle Whitmire and John Archibald show that a Tennessee real-estate mogul has a history of dumping money on Riley and Bentley and then receiving favorable treatment.

The interactions between Franklin Haney, of Chattanooga, and the Alabama governors--as described by al.com--smell an awful lot like the kind of quid pro quo ("something for something" deal) that constitutes federal bribery--and certainly could trump the state ethics charges Hubbard faces.

The Haney Cash Caravan started with Bob Riley, who after receiving lots of Tennessee dough, suddenly started pushing for a deal regarding the old Social Security Building in Birmingham--a deal that proved awfully sweet for Mr. Haney (not to be confused with the lovable greaseball character from Green Acres).

Archibald spelled it out in a February 2014 article, which I missed the first time around because, by golly, I was in jail--thanks to Bob Riley's son, the unlovable greaseball Rob Riley. Come to think of it, substantial evidence suggests Attorney General Luther Strange and his paramour/campaign manager, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, played a major role in my incarceration, the wrongful foreclosure on the house my wife, Carol, and I had owned for 25 years--or both.

That helps explain, in part, my tendency to think Bentley, Riley/Riley, and Strange/Garrison all are more corrupt than Mike Hubbard. Without question, though, it's a close call.

Back to the Archibald piece of two years ago, which introduced Alabamians to Franklin Haney and his cozy relationship with our state's governors:

Let's start with former Gov. Bob Riley.

Haney, a big Democratic donor over the years who in the last election gave $2 million to the Obama re-election campaign, put a load of cash into Alabama Republican politics in 2006, and Riley got a bunch of it.

Haney, according to the Alabama Secretary of State's office, passed at least $130,000 to Riley through PACs run by noted PACman Clark Richardson, much like he did last year with the Birmingham City Council. . . .

Riley, later, would become a big advocate for Haney and the Birmingham building.

One of his last acts as governor was to sign a lease that would consolidate Jefferson County's Department of Human Resources and move that agency into 290,000 square feet of Haney's building. Annual rent on that building began at $1.2 million a year, according to the lease, but rises this year to $5 million for the remainder of the term, plus possible extra costs for operational expenses.

That's higher than any of the 63 state tenants in any of David Bronner's newer and shinier RSA buildings, according to state records. It appears to be the highest rental rate for any state agency.

Riley not only signed the lease as he left office, he lobbied for Haney in Birmingham.

Haney has resurfaced under the Bentley regime. This time, Haney dumped cash on Bentley--possibly even helping support a slush fund to pay Bentley's mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason--and wound up getting support for a project involving a partially built nuclear reactor in northeast Alabama. Haney also got more support for his office building. Write Whitmire and Archibald, in an article dated May 13, 2016:

Just the traceable donations from Haney's businesses to Bentley's last campaigns total about $300,000, much of which moved into Bentley's campaign account after the last election was over. Again, that's only what's easily traceable. That campaign account subsequently paid the salary of Rebekah Caldwell Mason, the governor's senior political advisor with whom he is accused of having an affair.

Meanwhile, the governor has helped Haney, too, finalizing a state lease in Haney's Birmingham office building which costs the state $5 million a year.

And more recently, the governor threw his support publicly behind the sale of a partially built nuclear power plant currently owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority north of Scottsboro.

Haney's name reportedly is familiar to investigators examining money funneled into a non-profit organization that helped pay Mason. Haney, however, does not seem anxious to discuss the situation. Reports al.com:

In the most recent election cycle, Bentley's re-election campaign received at least $200,000 through such transactions — $75,000 of which moved to Bentley after the election, when the governor was raising the money he'd later use to pay Mason's salary during his second term.

Haney's name has popped up repeatedly in recent months as investigators and lawmakers have sought to learn more about the money paid into ACEgov, a shadowy 501(c)4 that also was used to supplement the pay of Mason.

Asked this week if he contributed to ACEgov, Haney referred questions to his lawyer.

"You'd have to ask Roger Bates," he said. "I don't do political contributions."

Attempts to reach Bates, a lawyer at Hand Arendall and a lobbyist for the Alabama two-year college system, failed.

Could Haney wind up as a central character in the scandal that is engulfing the Bentley administration? It's probably too soon to say, but al.com provides insight into the scope of the investigation:

Whether Haney's money has gone to pay Mason's salary remains to be seen. Currently, Bentley is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, United States Attorneys, U.S. Postal Inspectors, the Internal Revenue Service and the Alabama Ethics Commission. Some questioned by investigators say Haney's name came up in those conversations.

Haney said he has not received a subpoena nor heard of any inquiries into his activities.

The Mike Hubbard trial might prove to be the warm-up act for a corruption case that carries an overwhelming stench. If such a case includes Robert Bentley, Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Luther Strange, Jessica Garrison--or any and all of the above--you can bet it will have a foul smell.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Is Rob Riley trying to build a defense fund for Mike Hubbard because he desperately wants the speaker to go to trial, removing scrutiny a plea deal might bring?

Mike Hubbard
(From The New Republic)
Birmingham attorney and GOP operative Rob Riley is desperately trying to build a defense fund for House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), according to a new report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR). Why would Riley, the son of former governor Bob Riley, be doing that? The evidence points to what we think is a pretty clear answer.

Hubbard's trial on 23 counts of state ethics-law violations is set to begin with opening statements tomorrow in Lee County. Hubbard perhaps is the ultimate Riley Inc. insider--long stating that Bob Riley is his political mentor and hero. So it's possible Rob Riley simply is trying to help out a family friend. But we suspect much more is going on.

What's happening on the surface? Here is how APR publisher Bill Britt put it in a post out this morning:

Yet, with all of his failings, and now, having to face trial, the Riley’s are sticking with their guy. Just last week, Rob Riley was making phone calls pleading with wealthy republican donors to contribute to Hubbard’s legal defense fund.

Hubbard’s attorney Bill Baxley is believed to have demanded his money up front, after Hubbard stiffed his original criminal lawyer, J. Mark White for over a million dollars.

So, what’s ol’ Rob up to?

As for Baxley, sources tell us that right wingers have enough dirt on him that he is likely to do whatever they say; reportedly, Baxley is in no position to make demands. There is a reason, we are told, that Baxley suddenly has become the go-to lawyer for GOP operatives in trouble, such as Hubbard, Barry Moore, and Jessica Medeiros Garrison.

But what about Britt's key question: What's ol' Rob up to? I think that is a pretty easy question to answer.

Attorney Donald Watkins has reported that Hubbard and prosecutors had reached a plea deal, which would call for Hubbard to serve one year in prison in exchange for his cooperation in investigations of  Bob Riley, current governor Robert Bentley, and Senate President Del Marsh. Watkins noted that Hubbard can walk away from a plea deal at any time before it is accepted by the court.

Rob Riley
If that happens, he goes to trial--and that surely is what the Riley family is hoping for. If Mike Hubbard were to spill the goods on Bob Riley, his family members, and associates . . . the Rileys might eventually learn what is meant by the phrase "orange is the new black."

It clearly is in the Rileys' best interests for Hubbard to go to trial. Yes, Bob Riley and daughter Minda Riley Campbell might have to take the stand, which probably would not be pleasant. But it likely would be much more pleasant than having federal and state investigators taking a close look at family affairs, with Mike Hubbard providing a guided tour.

Here is how Bill Britt describes the various factors that seem to be in play:

Many thought the Riley clan would have been wise to establish a “prison trust fund” for their boy. And given the many high profile businessman who will be called to give testimony, surely a few million could have been put aside for Hubbard to just take the rap and save them further embarrassment. Almost no one thought Papa Riley would ever take the stand. Even now, there are those who believe Riley might suddenly feel a need for an extended motorcycle trip to Alaska.

There is still time for Hubbard to plea, but is he so delusional that even the Riley’s can’t reach him? Hubbard, like others, never believed he would be indicted, and he certainly never thought he would stand trial in Lee County.

A plea agreement can be reached at anytime, even during the trial, so that is still a possibility, but it is looking doubtful. The State has already presented the defense with over 1.500 exhibits it plans to introduce, and a list of over 135 witness has been listed on Alacourt.

Is Hubbard really the Riley's "boy" at this point? We doubt it. He's probably the guy they gladly would see risk going to prison for 20 to 50 years (or more) if it would help save their necks.

So again, what is ol' Rob up to? He probably is desperate to make sure Hubbard has the resources to fund a trial defense. Without such funds, Hubbard might be more likely to strike a plea deal.

And we suspect that's the last thing Rob Riley wants to see happen.

Gay press seems determined to let the public know that Trump SCOTUS candidate Bill Pryor is a homophobic hypocrite with ties to 1990s gay porn

From Metro Weekly

One of last week's biggest stories was the release of Donald Trump's list of possible nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court. One of the names on the list was Alabama-based federal judge Bill Pryor, who posed nude for photographs that wound up at the gay-porn Web site badpuppy.com in the late 1990s. Trump might be worth billions, but he apparently can't afford to hire a researcher who might have learned about Bill Pryor's background with a simple Google search. After all, we broke the story in fall 2013--including a photo of a young Bill Pryor in the full-frontal altogether--and it garnered significant attention in the Web press.

Perhaps the story hasn't gone viral, but that might change--if the gay press has it's way. It already has generated some Web images for the ages. (See images at the beginning and end of this post.)

Metro Weekly, the largest and longest-running LGBT publication in the Washington, D.C., area, seemed to take special delight in covering the Trump/Pryor connection:

Pryor, who is notorious for his homophobic views, apparently appeared nude in a print publication in the ’80s — his photos were then obtained by badpuppy.com, a gay pornography website, in 1997. Legal Schnauzer broke the story in 2013, obtaining the images which are claimed to show Pryor baring all for the camera.

An unnamed Alabama Republican reportedly saw the photos and exclaimed: “Holy cow, that’s Bill Pryor!”

While Metro Weekly obviously had fun with the story--as evidenced by the hilarious image it produced at the top of this post--it also addressed the serious implications:

Pryor, who is married with two children, denies that it is him in the photos. If that assertion is false, it makes his previous comments on LGBT rights deeply hypocritical. According to Lambda Legal, Pryor has “repeatedly shown clear hostility to the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV.”

“William Pryor is the most demonstrably antigay judicial nominee in recent memory. It’s clear from his record that William Pryor does not belong on the federal appeals court,” said former Executive Director Kevin Cathcart in 2005, when Pryor was being vetted for his current position.

Pryor has previously drawn comparisons between the rights of gay people and “prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia,” in a brief submitted during Lawrence v. Texas, which led to the state’s anti-sodomy law being struck down.

The blog Unicorn Booty, which must have an enormous readership based on the traffic we've received from there over the weekend, took a snarky approach to the Trump/Pryor story:

This week, human buttplug Donald Trump’s named his dream-team picks for the U.S. Supreme Court (we say “dream team” because a Trump presidency would be a fucking nightmare). Among his picks was William H. “Bill” Pryor Jr., a grown-up twink who thinks gay people should be jailed for having sex. The delicious twist: the homophobe might have appeared in gay porn during his 20s.

In 2013, the blog Legal Schnauzer unearthed some nude images that look a lot like Pryor and then showed them to an anonymous Alabama Republican who reportedly exclaimed, “Holy cow, that’s Bill Pryor!” Legal Schnauzer thinks that the images were taken during Pryor’s years at Northeast Louisiana University in the early ’80s and they re-emerged on the web during the ’90s in a file of pics labeled “Bill Pryor”. Pryor has understandably denied the allegations.

The gay news site Queerty, which also must have a huge audience, laid on an additional layer of snark:

You will no doubt be shocked to hear that a crazily homophobic federal judge has been tied to a gay sex scandal. But here’s the fun twist this time: Donald Trump is thinking about nominating him to the Supreme Court.

The man in question is William Holcombe “Bill” Pryor Jr., an eleventh-circuit judge and former Attorney General of Alabama. He’s married (to a woman), has two daughters, and he really really really hates queers. He’s said that queer people should be arrested for having consensual sex in their homes; that being gay is harmful; and he voted to keep kids in orphanages rather than allow them to go to supportive same-sex adoptive parents. Trump says he’d consider Pryor for the Supreme Court.

What a bunch of jerks.

He is also, allegedly, featured in nude photographs that floated around on BadPuppy in the 90s. It sure looks like him! The man in the picture is looking glumly at the camera, on full display, and is identified as “Bill Pryor.” Various unnamed officials have identified the photo as authentic; but then again, it’s easy to claim all kinds of things anonymously.

For his part, Pryor says it’s not him, just like every other Republican asshole caught doing something sexual.

For now, Trump hasn’t said anything about Pryor’s potentially-naked past. But lots of other legitimate legal observers have heard the rumors, and are only too happy to spread them. Maybe that’s the silver lining to Trump’s impending presidency: it’ll force some truly shocking secrets out into the open.

Finally, The Sword, adds to the hilarity. (See image at the end of this post.) But it also takes a serious look at the politics involved:

The fact that virulently anti-gay Justice Bill Pryor allegedly appeared on a gay porn site is a big deal. But now that he’s appeared on the Donald’s SCOTUS list, it’s a huge deal.

Worst case scenario would be having to endure Trump/Palin for eight years. But if they get to pick a SCOTUS judge, America will have to live with that appointment for a lifetime. Justice Pryor would let states jail LGBT people for having sex in their homes. Have I got your attention now?

Within the law, of course, what Judge Pryor or anyone may have done with their penis as a college student, i.e. posing for gay porn pictures, should have no bearing on their judicial aptitude. This is about what he has done and potentially will do with his gavel. . . .
Regardless of how your candidate fairs in the primary, don’t let sour grapes sour our future. Come Election Day; it’s more crucial than ever to vote for the Democratic nominee and elect a Democratic House and Senate that will advance their agenda and confirm their SCOTUS picks.

Donald Trump is right about one thing: this could be huge.

From The Sword

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Is Donald Trump serious when he claims that Bill Pryor, with nude pictures at badpuppy.com gay-porn Web site in his background, is fit for SCOTUS?

Bill Pryor
(From badpuppy.com)

Those who think Donald Trump is not a serious presidential candidate received new ammunition yesterday with the release of a list of individuals Trump considers possible nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Included on the list is an Alabama judge who posed nude during his college days for a series of photographs that wound up at the badpuppy.com gay-pornography Web site in the late '90s.

William H. "Bill" Pryor's foray into gay porn probably is more substantive than anything he's done as a judge. President George W. Bush nominated the virulently homophobic Pryor to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003, even though the Alabama attorney general had zero experience as a judge--not even in municipal or traffic court.

What were Pryor's credentials? Well, he was a passionate member of the Federalist Society, and he launched a state investigation of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman before the Democrat's fanny had barely hit the seat in his new office. That state probe led to a federal prosecution that landed Siegelman at Oakdale (LA) Federal Correctional Institution, where he still resides today. It is widely believed that Karl Rove, "Bush's Brain," orchestrated the Siegelman prosecution and rewarded Pryor for his key role with a nomination to the 11th Circuit.

That was long before Pryor's ties to gay porn became widely known when we broke the story in fall 2013. What's the story behind the nude photos of a college student who, despite his painfully thin resume, grew up to be a federal judge? Here's how we described it in a post dated Sept. 17, 2013: (Warning: If you click on this link and scroll to the bottom of the post, you will find the original Pryor photo, unedited. If you are squeamish about full-frontal male nudity, we advise caution if you choose to click on the link.)

Nude photographs of federal judge Bill Pryor appeared in the 1990s on a gay pornography Web site, a Legal Schnauzer investigation shows.

The photos appeared in 1997 on badpuppy.com, which was in its online infancy, having debuted in mid 1995. Based in Cocoa, Florida, the site has morphed into one of the largest gay porn sites on the Web.

Images obtained by Legal Schnauzer show Pryor posing completely nude, staring into the camera and sporting a noticeable erection. We see no indication that the photos were taken surreptitiously, without Pryor's knowledge. Sources say Pryor was college age when the photos were taken.

Is there doubt about the photographs' authenticity? Well, a major Republican political figure in Alabama was shown the pictures in the late '90s and immediately exclaimed, "Holy Cow, That's Bill Pryor!" A former female political journalist at a Birmingham news outlet was shown the photos and reportedly guffawed and semi-fainted at the same time. Did either of those insiders express any doubt that it was Bill Pryor in the photo? Nope.

Judge Bill Pryor
(From nbcnews.com)
It should be noted that the young man in the nude photos clearly has a condition called strabismus, which is a crossing of the eyes. The condition is apparent in recent photos of Pryor, although it appears he's had treatment (likely surgery) to improve the condition. Sources who have seen Pryor in person recently say the strabismus remains noticeable. We asked for an interview with Pryor about the strabismus issue and asked if he would turn over his medical records for inspection. He did not respond.

Here's more about the photographs' history:

Alabama law-enforcement officials became aware of the photos at badpuppy.com in 1997, not long before Governor Fob James appointed Pryor attorney general. An investigation ensued, and multiple officials familiar with that process have told Legal Schnauzer that the photos are, in fact, of the Bill Pryor who now sits on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Sources say the photos were taken while Pryor was a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe) from 1980 to 1984.

Legal Schnauzer contacted Judge Pryor last Friday via e-mail, seeking an interview about the photographs and their possible implications for his role on the federal bench. Pryor responded as follows:

I have nothing to say to you except that these accusations are totally false. Do not contact me again. Bill Pryor.

I replied by reminding Pryor that these were not "accusations"; they were photographs where multiple sources had identified him as the subject.  Pryor still was not willing to grant an interview on the subject:

This is the last time I will respond to you. Those photos are not of me. Do not contact me again. Bill Pryor

If the photos were not of Pryor, wouldn't it be easy for the judge to invite an inquisitive reporter to his office at the Hugo Black Courthouse in downtown Birmingham, lay out several family photos of himself from the undergrad days, show that he didn't look then like the young man in the photo (with a noticeable erection), and put the story to bed? That would seem like an easy way to handle it. But Pryor never has done that.

Instead, the story was picked up by Above the Law, the nation's No. 1 legal blog, plus dozens of other blogs and news sites. When other journalists sent queries to Pryor, he responded by having a former law clerk send out a canned statement.

Perhaps most troubling of all is reports that the secrets in Pryor's past actually helped his judicial career--that he was nominated to the bench so he would be vulnerable to blackmail, ensuring that he would steer cases to outcomes favorable to conservative interests. Here's how we described it in a December 2014 post:

In fact, our sources say conservative forces pushed George W. Bush to make the appointment not because of any legal expertise on Pryor's part, but because his secrets make him controllable. [Journalist Wayne] Madsen calls Pryor a "gatekeeper" for Republican interests. Others have called him a "fixer," that he protects Karl Rove's agenda on the bench. Rove once served as Pryor's campaign manager in a race for Alabama attorney general.

Either way, Pryor appears to be a judge of dubious integrity.

Is this a sensitive topic in Alabama conservative circles? Well, roughly one week after I broke the Pryor/gay porn story, Shelby County deputies started showing up on our property (two and three at a time, in multiple vehicles), banging on doors and looking in our windows, even shining lights in our windows at dark. Less than one month after that, deputies broke into our basement garage as I was pulling our car in, assaulted me, doused me with pepper spray (while never showing a warrant, stating they had a warrant, or stating their reasons for being there) and hauled me to jail for a five-month stay. I probably would still be in jail (or dead) if my wife, Carol, had not managed to avoid being abducted (they were trying to arrest her, too) and was able to get word out about my arrest to the press.

WizardBoy photo gallery,
including Bill Pryor
(From badpuppy.com)
My incarceration received national and international news coverage. Substantial evidence suggests a group of right-wing bloggers, led by Ali Akbar and largely funded by GOP mega-donor Foster Friess, played a role in my arrest, which really was a state-sanctioned kidnapping.

As for Trump, this is not the first time he has floated Pryor's name as a possible SCOTUS nominee. He did it back in February, after Super Tuesday primaries. U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who is Pryor's mentor and No. 1 political backer, became a Trump supporter early on and is considered a possible VP pick. Sessions likely has been whispering sweet nothings about Pryor in Trump's ear.

Is Trump completely ignorant of Pryor's past? It looks that way. Don Siegelman is one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet about Pryor, and his reaction to Trump's words in February were, well . . . rather harsh. Siegelman called Pryor "evil and pernicious," and that was just for starters. Here's more:

Pryor's background: Slipped in as a recess appointment of Bush. A protege and political client of Karl Rove, a state attorney general linked to Karl Rove's tobacco clients and large corporate interests refused to join in the national suit against Big Tobacco. His reasoning: "Poor people who smoke die faster, so they cost Alabama's Medicaid less money." Republican Arizona Attorney General, Grant Woods, later Co-Chair McCain for President, responded publicly saying: "Alabama would be better off with comedian Richard Pryor rather than Bill Pryor as its attorney general."

I've sought to interview Pryor at least three times about the gay-porn photos--and other issues. Each time, he has refused to take questions or even issue a substantive comment. In fact, he simply has not responded. I gave him another opportunity yesterday, via the following e-mail:

Roger Shuler

to: william_h_pryor_jr@ca11.uscourts.gov

date: Wed, May 18, 2016 at 4:15 PM

subject: Inquiry about Donald Trump, U.S. Supreme Court, and your appearance at badpuppy.com

mailed-by: gmail.com

Judge Pryor:

As I'm sure you know, Donald Trump yesterday mentioned you as a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. I would like to request an interview or a comment on this topic, especially in light of my fall 2013 reports about nude photos of you that appeared at the badpuppy.com gay pornography Web site.

I have requested interviews on this subject multiple times in the past, and you never have granted one. I repeat that request today and ask that the interview be done in the next 24-48 hours because this is a national, breaking story.

A few questions that quickly come to mind:

* Have you disclosed to the Trump campaign your appearance at badpuppy.com?

* Did you disclose this information to the U.S. Senate during your confirmation hearings after being nominated to the federal bench?

* Would it be appropriate for you to consider a SCOTUS nomination, given the gay-porn photos in your background--and your public statements indicating you oppose gay rights. Multiple sources say you were confronted about the photographs in roughly 1997, long before your nomination to the federal bench.

* What does the presence of such photographs say about your judgment and your suitability for a position on the federal bench, much less SCOTUS?

* Were you asked about these photographs--or other potentially embarrassing and/or corrupting background information--during the confirmation process for your position on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals? If so, did you answer truthfully? If you failed to disclose this information, what does that say about your suitability for a role on the federal bench? Did you effectively lie to Congress?

Trump's comments represent a breaking story, so I ask that you respond to this e-mail by 5 p.m. on 5/20/16 (Friday).

Any chance Pryor will respond by 5 p.m. tomorrow? We will keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Erik Davis Harp was arrested for carrying a concealed 9 mm handgun into a government building--the Bay County Courthouse in Panama City Beach, FL

Erik Davis Harp
Erik Davis Harp, a one-time gambling kingpin and business partner to former Luther Strange campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison, was arrested in March for carrying a concealed firearm into a government building. Specifically, Harp is charged with taking a concealed Walther 9mm handgun into the Bay County Courthouse in Panama City Beach, Florida. (See documents about the charges at the end of this post.)

Trying to sneak a gun into courthouse? That raises the seriousness of this story by several levels.

Harp was indicted several years ago in Queen's, New York, as one of two ringleaders in an offshore sports-gambling ring, based in Panama, that brought in more than $20 million a month. Despite his connections to massive wealth, Harp applied for indigent status, which the Florida court denied. He hired Kevin D. Barr, of the Panama City Beach law firm Bryant Higby, who entered a not-guilty plea on his client's behalf.

A pre-trial conference is set for 1:30 p.m. on June 9 before Judge Brantley Clark Jr. Here are specifics of the charges against Harp, per Jennifer Hawkins, an assistant state attorney for the 14th Judicial Circuit in Florida:

Erik D. Harp, on or about March 15, 2016, in the County of BAY and the State of FLORIDA, did knowingly carry a Walther 9mm handgun, a firearm, concealed on or about his person, contrary to Florida Statute 790.01(2). 

Under Florida law, Harp is charged with a third-degree felony that is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

According to charges from prosecutors, Harp "knowingly" took a gun into a courthouse. That suggests it was not an accident, and that raises a number of troubling questions:

(1) Did Harp have legitimate courthouse business on that date? If so, what was it? Was he present because of a criminal case, a civil case, or some other business usually conducted at the courthouse?

(2) If Harp had no business at the courthouse, why was he "knowingly" trying to enter with a handgun? Did he plan to shoot someone? If so, who was it, and why?

(3) If Harp intended to shoot someone, was he essentially on a suicide mission? Isn't a lone gunman likely to be way outnumbered in a courthouse, where multiple armed security types are likely to be on duty?

(4) Will investigators look into Erik Harp's communication records--e-mails, phone messages, texts, etc.--in an effort to determine the intentions behind his trip to a courthouse, with a gun?

Here are several key documents from the Harp case. (A hat tip to helpful readers who played a major role in preparation of this post.):

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"Is Mike Hubbard the most corrupt politician in America?" magazine headline asks; heck, I'm not sure Hubbard is the most corrupt politician in Alabama

Mike Hubbard
(From newrepublic.com)
A national magazine article published yesterday carries this glaring headline: "Is Mike Hubbard the most corrupt politician in America?" My immediate response, as a journalist who has blogged about legal and political issues in the Deep South for almost nine years, was: "Heck I'm not sure Hubbard is even the most corrupt politician in Alabama." After all, there is stiff competition for that title.

The New Republic (TNR) reporter Joe Miller makes a compelling case that Hubbard, whose criminal trial starts with jury selection this week, is the scoundrel of all scoundrels--a lowlife whose abuse of the public trust deserves national condemnation. Consider this from Miller's article:

The story of Mike Hubbard sounds like an only-in-Alabama joke: A politician runs a statewide campaign against corruption, wins big, quickly passes some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation, then gets skewered by those very laws. But the case against Hubbard, the Speaker of the Alabama House, is no laughing matter. Even in a place where political corruption is as much a part of the landscape as kudzu, the extensiveness and brazenness of his alleged crimes have stunned even longtime followers of politics in the state.

“Mike Hubbard has been the overlord of an orgy of greed and corruption like we have never seen,” Bill Britt, host of Alabama’s weekly political talk show, The V, declared in a recent episode. “He is the Caligula of Alabama. Just a tyrant, and a mean and perverse guy.”

I can't quarrel with a word Miller has written, or Britt has spoken, above. But I can think of at least four Alabama political figures--current governor Robert Bentley, former governor Bob Riley, attorney general Luther Strange (who is prosecuting Hubbard), and GOP operative and former "first son" Rob Riley--who I think might leave Hubbard in the dust when it comes to corruption. If you include state and federal judges as political figures--and they are either elected or appointed in a political process--Hubbard might not even make Alabama's "Top 40."

Miller does a splendid job of portraying Hubbard as an overgrown sewer rat who wears nice ties. From the TNR piece:

From the beginning there were signs that Hubbard’s self-portrayal as a warrior for good government was an act. Hubbard’s hometown paper, Opelika-Auburn News, reported that he’d spent party money on services from one of his own businesses, Craftmaster Printers. Hubbard told the small-town reporter it was much ado about nothing. “Out of about 80 candidates, you have only two using Craftmaster,” he said. “Is this really a story?”

But his successor as chair of the state party had the accounts audited and found that Hubbard had bought more than $1 million worth of printing from Craftmaster with campaign funds that he controlled. Much of it came through a deal with Marketing Solutions of Florida, a political direct mail vendor that’s worked for Republican campaigns across the country, including Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid for president. The company is run by Brett Buerck, who fled Ohio in the early 2000s in the wake of a scandal that cost Larry Householder his position as Speaker of the House.

Then the Montgomery Advertiser reported that Hubbard had used the national Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) to launder gambling money from the Poarch Creek Indians to the state GOP. With three casinos in the state, the Poarch Creek had a monopoly, and Hubbard and his colleagues reached out to them to support their candidates, who opposed an expansion of gambling in the state that would create new competitors for the Poarch Creek. The money was funneled through the RSLC to hide donations that would be politically toxic to conservative values voters in the Alabama GOP’s base. (Politico later obtained an internal RSLC document that candidly confirmed that Hubbard and the committee had consciously broken the law.)

When an investigation of Hubbard started, he responded with one of the most disingenuous statements ever made in public:

“What happens when conservatives stand up to Barack Obama?” he asked. “They get attacked. . . . ”

Two months before Election Day 2014, the grand jury came back with 23 indictments against Hubbard. Again Hubbard blamed Obama, calling the case against him a “political witch hunt.”

How big  a pile of rubbish is this? Hubbard is being prosecuted by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, a fellow Republican. It is a state case, guided by state law. There is no indication that Obama or the federal justice department has played a role in the case. If anything, Obama has taken a hands-off approach to Republican scoundrels like Hubbard (and Karl Rove and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzalez and . . . ) since taking office in 2009.

Could Hubbard be the poster child for political opportunists--the kind who use public office for private gain? Absolutely. Is Hubbard guilty of the charges against him? It's hard to see how a rational being could respond with any answer but "yes."

But there is a flip side. It has been widely reported that Strange sees Hubbard as a prime competitor for a 2018 run at the governorship--and the prosecution is designed to leave Hubbard's political future in tatters. If that is true, Mike Hubbard is the victim of a political prosecution, very much like the one that took down former Democratic governor Don Siegelman. If a political prosecution is proven, any convictions against Hubbard could be overturned, as a matter of law.

Here is something else to keep in mind. Hubbard is charged with violating state ethics laws--and that is a serious matter--but we've seen evidence in recent days that suggests major Alabama political figures have violated federal bribery laws. If such charges are brought and proven, they could dwarf the Hubbard case in scope and seriousness.

Who are some of Hubbard's prime contenders for the title of "Alabama's Most Corrupt Politician"? We will examine that question in an upcoming post.