Monday, May 16, 2016

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard goes on trial today in a state where outrageous courtroom shenanigans have become almost the norm

Mike Hubbard
The criminal trial of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) begins today in Lee County, so it's an appropriate time to examine the grim reality of far too many Alabama courtrooms, state and federal.

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:

Katie Langer
What the public and defendants did not know at the time was that Fuller, who was married, was having an extramarital affair with his married courtroom deputy – the very courtroom official who interacted with trial jurors on behalf of the court. Fuller later married this courtroom deputy.

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)
If you believe Alabama's justice system could not possibly be that crooked, consider this: You might think Keith Baker and Katie Langer -- assuming they aren't in prison (and they are not) --would have been shipped to legal purgatory, as punishment for dishonorable actions in a system that is supposed to be based on honor--and the rule of law.

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.


Anonymous said...

Fuller was helping Langer and Hendrix rig the Siegelman jury? My God, I had never heard that one before. I think I'm going to be sick.

legalschnauzer said...

That one slipped by me, too, @12:01. But it's right there in the alleged e-mail. A big thank you to Donald Watkins for pointing that out. No wonder Fuller never conducted a serious investigation of juror misconduct. He was part of the misconduct, and his mistress/deputy probably was, too.

Rhino whisperer said...

Watkins did a nice job of analyzing all of this, and I'm glad you are picking up on it. This story needs to be spread far and wide.

Anonymous said...

All this scandal has me confused.

Does this have anything to do with the alleged badpuppy judge?

Or is that alleged badpuppy judge totally unconnected to all this other stuff?

Has anyone from Alabama ever been on Jeffrey Epstein's private jet? With or without either Epstein and or Bill Clinton?

legalschnauzer said...

Hah, you ask interesting questions, @12:22. To my knowledge, the badpuppy judge (Bill Pryor) is not involved with the Hubbard case. And I'm not sure if anyone from Alabama has been on the Epstein jet.

Do you think the Epstein jet and the badpuppy judge have a connection to the Hubbard case?

I agree, it all gets pretty confusing.

Anonymous said...

Baker was funneling info to Bob Riley during the bingo trial? That's incredible. Where in the heck is the Justice Department. With modern technology, this stuff should be pretty easy to prove.

Anonymous said...

@12:15: Roger has been on the Siegelman case--LS was where I first read details of the case and I've been following his blog since the beginning--since day one, and has suffered greatly for simply being the messenger. Now that Mr. Watkins has added his voice and analysis to the growing outrage, perhaps justice will finally prevail.

Anonymous said...

Why does this happen in Alabama? I can think of only one word -- entitlement. For the most part, these are white people who claim to be conservative Christians. And for some reason, they feel it is their God-given right to pull things over on the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

I'm betting Katie Langer received a bunch of favors to help her get into law school, out of law school, to pass the bar exam, get job with Montgomery Co. DA, and get job with AG's office. Never met the woman, but I don't get the impression she is smart enough to pull that off without a lot of help.

Was it, "Help us send two innocent men to prison, and we will help you become a lawyer?"

If so, what does that say about Langer's moral compass--if she even has one?

Anonymous said...

Is Mike Hubbard the Most Corrupt Politician in America?

“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.”

Anonymous said...

@2:58 I'm an attorney in another state beside Alabama. Trust me, Alabama is not alone in these type of issues. "Who you know" is just as important as "who you are or what you did" in many states. Other states just don't have a blog digging in to this stuff like LS.

legalschnauzer said...

You make a great point, @3:20. My wife and I currently live in Missouri (hopefully, for not too much longer), and our experience tells me courts here are dismal, too. When I started this blog in 2007, and I did a little research on judicial corruption and found cases in every part of the country -- California, Washington, Vermont, Florida, Texas, Illinois . . . and so on.

Definitely not an Alabama problem. It's a national problem. And I feel for honest lawyers who try to make their way in this system. I wonder what it must be like to know your client, by law, should have won a case, but you have to tell them they lost--and there's not much that can be done about it, except to risk spending more money for an appeal that isn't likely to change things.

Those conversations must he difficult for a lawyer with a conscience.

Anonymous said...

@3:20 again. It is the worst conversation to have to have. I used to say "this is black and white" when referring to how a judge should rule given the way the pertinent law read, but quickly quit when I realized the unfairness. I know say "this Is how the law reads but you never know how a judge will interpret it as it relates to your case". Got burned wayyy too many times. I used to love being a lawyer to help people. Can't wait to retire now.

Anonymous said...

Sources tell us that both Langer and Baker are working on the Hubbard case.

Langer's participation in the Hubbard case would seem to be proven by this filing where she is listed as of counsel for the state as "Assistant Attorney General".

What an amazing career trajectory.

Anonymous said...

This group in Alabama that's in trouble aren't they the same ones that took down Siegelman and Scrushy?

Anonymous said...

All of your insights are so interesting and intriguing. These details need to be spread for the public to know. But in my view the corruption has deep roots. Do those on the left have clean hands? Seigelman, Scrushy, for that matter Donald Watkins? It's not just those on the right that are corrupt.

Anonymous said...

Or even perhaps a byproduct?

Anonymous said...

I like the byproduct comment...they are all a byproduct of the corruption that started more than fifty years ago on Goat Hill...folks in both parties have gotten away with worse things than corruption.

legalschnauzer said...

It's definitely a bipartisan problem, @11:19. Jeffco Judge Robert Vance Jr., former US Atty Doug Jones, and former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis are some of the Democrats I've exposed on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Corruption is everywhere.

Kentucky Attorney: "You've clearly won your case. I don't see how you could lose but you have to understand, the judge can rule any way he/she wishes."

(You can guess what happened.)

Anonymous said...

I'd love to know how/ what basis Judge jailbird Fuller found the emails to be not "authentic" (in the Rules of Evidence sense, or some other way??) I can't believe what I am reading here. If true, (not only jurors scheming during a trial, but also the undue influence of the Judge steering the jury) it is beyond outrageous.

What happened after the 11th Circuit? Did the Supreme Court refuse to take up this case?

Great reporting by all involved.

legalschnauzer said...

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit upheld pretty much everything Fuller did, and the court denied request for an en banc (full court) hearing. SCOTUS denied certiorari, refusing to hear case, even though it agreed to hear case of former Virginia GOP Gov. Jim McDonnell, which raises almost identical issues. You are right; the Siegelman case is beyond outrageous

Anonymous said...

Dr. Leonidas Foreman paid Siegelman a visit while he as in solitary confinement. The Eliza Battle is now flying a sweat shirt battle ensign, with the number 24775-001, above the Gin ensign Baxley hoisted. Rumor has it that Matt Hart saw Baxley wearing a bandana and eye patch,and the sight of Rooster Baxley gave him a premonition.
Matt offered Hubbard a sweetheart deal of a slap on the hand and a kiss. Baxley held a press conference to remind people that politicians do not kiss on the mouth.