Jury selection in the Hubbard case is expected to take most of this week, with opening statements set for May 24. If recent history is a guide, all kinds of courtroom corruption could take place behind the scenes. Considerable evidence points to the following happening in the Land of Atticus Finch:
Two jurors having improper communications during a high-profile trial, apparently trying to steer other jurors toward a guilty verdict--with assistance from the judge? The married judge in the same case having an extramarital affair with his married courtroom deputy, who interacts frequently with jurors? An FBI agent in another high-profile case, having an affair with the federal court reporter who recorded and transcribed secret grand-jury testimony in the case? The FBI agent giving information to the governor, a long-time political opponent of a key defendant? The judge in the second case learning that the FBI agent had an affair with the courtroom deputy in the first case?
All of this is part of the recent sordid history in Alabama's "justice" system. And these were high-profile cases, with extensive press coverage. God only knows what happens in thousands of low-profile cases that take place in out-of-the-way courthouses around the state every year.
How do we know about this sleaze? Well, we've reported on much of it since Legal Schnauzer began in June 2007. On top of that, attorney Donald Watkins provided a captivating guided tour last week on his Facebook page. It's likely that few people on the planet have more insights about the real world of Alabama "justice" than Donald Watkins.
"There is no other system like it in America," Watkins writes, and then provides evidence to back up that statement--which I'm pretty sure he did not mean as a compliment. Let's take a closer look at some of the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) of Watkins' tour through a system that is riddled with dysfunction. If you have hip boots, put them on because this is a little like wading through raw sewage:
U.S. v. Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy
Evidence suggests jurors Sam Hendrix and Katie Langer engaged in improper e-mail communications, trying to push other jurors toward guilty verdicts. This episode never has been properly investigated, and that might be because Judge Mark Fuller was helping Hendrix and Langer. Writes Watkins:
One of the many issues raised in this case was whether two jurors – jury foreman Sam Hendrix and juror Katie Langer – engaged in improper communications with each other and with fellow jurors during the trial and deliberations by the jury. An alleged email exchanged between Hendrix and Langer indicated that Fuller and these two jurors were steering the jury towards a conviction of Siegelman and Scrushy. One of the emails Langer allegedly sent to Hendrix stated:
“gov & pastor [i.e. defendant Richard Scrushy] up s—t creek. good thing no one likes them anyway. all public officials r scum; especially this 1. pastor is reall a piece of work...they missed before, but we won’t...also, keep working on [juror number] 30...
will update u on other meeting….Katie”.
Another alleged Langer email stated:
Judge really helping with jurors still having difficulties with #30 ...any ideas??? Keep pushing on ur side. Did not understand your thoughts on statute But received links….Katie”.
A federal judge working with rogue jurors to cook a case? It blows the mind, but Watkins adds another element to the scheme:
In 2015, Fuller was forced to resign his judgeship after a Court of Appeals judicial panel probing his 2014 arrest in Atlanta for beating his second wife confirmed our 2014 exclusive Facebook investigative reports that detailed Fuller’s serial martial cheating, out-of-control wife-beating episodes, and perjury to judicial officers.
Yep, Mark Fuller . . . a classic example of the kind of fair-minded jurist that George W. Bush (and Karl Rove) wanted on the federal bench.
U.S. v. Milton McGregor, et al
This was the Alabama bingo case, which involved two trials, and produced zero convictions. That outcome might be embarrassing enough for the feds. But when you add the conduct of FBI agent Keith Baker . . . well, it becomes a candidate for the Sleaze Hall of Fame. Baker, it seems has epic "zipper problems," and evidence suggests he provided information to Governor Bob Riley, a prime political enemy of defendant Milton McGregor. Did Baker, and Riley, commit criminal acts? Writes Watkins:
Local FBI agent Keith Baker was one of the case agents who worked on the Siegelman-Scrushy bribery case. Baker later became the lead FBI case agent in the 2010 federal bribery case against VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, Dothan casino developer Ronnie Gilley, several state legislators, and two lobbyists. McGregor and Gilley were accused of bribing the defendant legislators. What the public and defendants did not know at the time was this: Baker, who was married, was having a secret extramarital affair with Mallory Johnson, a married federal court reporter who recorded and transcribed secret grand jury testimony in this case. Mallory leaked this testimony to Baker, who appears to have given this evidence to then-Governor Bob Riley, a longtime political foe of McGregor.
When this matter was brought to the attention of trial judge Myron Thompson, he conducted a closed hearing to get to the bottom of this matter. Baker and Johnson confirmed their secret love affair and the grand jury leaks. Text messages between the two lovers seemed to bring Riley directly into the mix.
That was not the only surprise awaiting Judge Thompson:
When Baker received a defense request for 8,000 text messages on his phone during the time period of his investigation, they went missing. A check on the FBI servers revealed the copies of the text messages were also missing for that period of time. No other text messages on the server were missing.
Thompson also learned that Baker had a secret inappropriate relationship with an unnamed "female courtroom deputy” during Siegelman’s trial. Fuller only had one such deputy – the woman he married. An upset Judge Thompson thereafter banned Baker from his courtroom during the trial proceedings.
Missing text messages, multiple extramarital affairs across multiple trials, spoonfeeding grand-jury information to the governor, rogue jurors trying to force a guilty verdict? It all sounds off-the-charts crazy. But who knows what skulduggery will take place--or already has taken place--in the Hubbard case. (BTW, did Baker's messages go missing because he was texting then Governor Bob Riley? Again, if proven, was this criminal activity? Is someone in the U.S. Department of Justice trying to protect Riley?)
|Keith Baker (far right)
But you would be wrong. After the Siegelman trial, Langer (who had been a gymnastics teacher) completed law school and earned a bar card. (How did that happen? Did she receive help in exchange for her actions in the Siegelman case?) Keith Baker exited the federal branch, but he remains in law enforcement.
Yes, Katie Langer and Keith Baker both now work for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. And that's the office that, beginning today, takes Mike Hubbard to trial.
Sources tell us that both Langer and Baker are working on the Hubbard case.
God help us all.