|Jessica Medeiros Garrison and Luther Strange|
Lee County Judge Jacob Walker III is scheduled to sentence Hubbard tomorrow, with a hearing to begin at 10 a.m. This much we already know: Essentially, Strange and Baxley agree that the proposed sentence is tough, with Baxley claiming it is overly harsh. But I've had a first-hand experience with Strange and Baxley that leads me to a very different conclusion, one filled with irony and a strong hint that both of these "august attorneys" are dishonest and corrupt -- part of Alabama's problems, not the solutions.
More importantly, their words and actions suggest Alabama's court system remains a disgusting, dysfunctional sham -- one that cuts corners for white conservative elites (even a criminal like Mike Hubbard), while gouging everyday folks.
What colors my view of the $1.6 million the state seeks from Mike Hubbard, who was found by a jury of his peers to have committed criminal acts that repeatedly betrayed the public trust? You might recall that Jefferson County Circuit Judge Don Blankenship imposed a $3.5-million default judgment on me in April 2015, in a defamation case brought by former Strange campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison. So Mike Hubbard might have to cough up $1.6 million related to 12 counts of criminality, while I have a $3.5-million default judgment hanging over my head in a civil matter where the public record shows I committed no wrongful act.
Let me explain: Garrison filed suit in fall 2013, claiming posts at Legal Schnauzer about her extramarital affair with Strange were false and defamatory. Garrison even went to the women's fashion magazine Marie Claire to brag about her $3.5 million default judgment and made the laughable claim that she was standing up for other women who've had something mean written about them in the press. The article was filled with inaccuracies and defamed me in more ways than I can count.
Here are just a few of the problems with Garrison's $3.5-million "windfall":
* A lawyer who reviewed the file said the record showed no one even attempted to serve me with notice of the default-judgment hearing, so it's little wonder I didn't appear. That means Blankenship's ruling, as a matter of law, is void. A scrap of toilet paper has more legal clout than his opinion.
* As a matter of law, my reporting never was found to be false or defamatory. First Amendment law requires that a jury trial be conducted in a defamation case -- that a judge, acting solo, cannot lawfully make a determination that published matter is defamatory. In Garrison's case, there was no trial and no jury, so there could be no finding that my work was false and defamatory. This has been stated many times in case law, including Bernard v. Gulf Oil, 619 F. 2d 459 (5th Cir., 1980), which held: "The essence of prior restraint is that it places specific communications under the personal censorship of the judge."
* Blankenship, who acted as a personal censor in the Garrison case, issued an order indicating almost all of the $3.5 million was granted because Garrison (and maybe Strange) claimed I had reported that her son is the AG's biological child. Unfortunately for Garrison, I reported no such thing. That means there is no legal basis for the judgment, and it largely was the product of perjury on Garrison's part.
|Judge Don Blanenship|
Don't be surprised if something fundamentally dishonest is going on behind the scenes in the Hubbard sentencing. We already know Strange sought 50 years behind bars for defendants in an ethics-law case less than two years ago. But his office has recommended that Hubbard be incarcerated for no more than five years. That is a stunningly lenient recommendation -- and Strange's own previous requests prove it -- so the public already has reason to believe that Hubbard is receiving favorable treatment. Judge Walker does not have to follow the prosecution's recommendation--he can go above it or below it -- so he needs to hit Hubbard with at least 10 years, which would be meaningful punishment for the crimes committed.
Strange and Baxley, in roundabout ways, are telling the public that $1.6 million is a severe punishment for Mike Hubbard following his conviction on 12 criminal counts. Meanwhile, they both played major roles in Jessica Garrison's default judgment, and they seem to be saying $3.5-million is a proper amount for a journalist whose reporting never has been found to be false or defamatory at trial -- and whose constitutional rights to due process and equal protection were raped by a judge from the Democratic Party (Don Blankenship), who should be above such corrupt actions.
What does the rule of law mean to Strange and Baxley? The answer appears to be "absolutely nothing" -- and it will be interesting to see how that plays out in the Hubbard sentencing.