Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Former Alabama Judge Paul Conger Jr. pleads guilty to obstruction in case where he gave a woman disability benefits in exchange for sexual favors

How sleazy are Alabama judges? That question can be hard to answer because most judges operate with little or no oversight, and they usually get away with unsavory acts.

Paul Stribling Conger, Jr., a former Social Security Administration judge in Tuscaloosa, has proven to be the exception -- he was stupid enough to get caught.

Conger, age 73 of Akron, Alabama, could wind up in prison for giving a woman SSI benefits in exchange for sex. Conger has pleaded guilty to federal charges of obstructing justice, theft of government property, and accepting a gratuity. This sounds like a classic case of bribery, based on a quid pro quo ("something for something") agreement. Why is Conger not facing that charge? It isn't clear, but perhaps the government agreed to forego that whopper charge in exchange for guilty pleas on lesser offenses.

Here is the official U.S. Department of Justice press release on the case.

Federal agents had been investigating Conger for trading Social-Security benefits for sex. According to court documents, Conger initially denied having sex with the woman. But that proved to be a lie. (Another question: Why isn't Conger charged with lying to federal agents? Is the judge getting a sweetheart deal here?)

A report from provides details, based on charges and Conger's plea agreement:

In July 2013, Conger presided over the claims hearing of a woman identified in court documents as T.M., who subsequently was approved for SSI benefits, including future monthly payments and retroactive benefits. In November 2013, T.M. discussed Conger with a mutual acquaintance of theirs and was given information that led her to approach the judge about receiving her retroactive SSI benefits in a lump sum of about $10,000.

On Nov. 19, 2013, T.M. met Conger in his chambers at the Tuscaloosa federal courthouse, seeking the lump sum benefits payment. There, the two engaged in sexual activity. Over ensuing weeks, they remained in contact through phone calls and text messages. Conger is charged with illegal receipt of a gratuity for his conduct with T.M.

He is charged with theft of government property for using T.M.’s records from the SSA database to learn more about her. The information included medical records and identifiers such as her Social Security number.

Conger is charged with obstruction for attempting to obtain T.M.’s cell phone and destroy it after learning that he was the subject of a workplace complaint and an OIG investigation. According to the court records, Conger paid someone, “Individual B,” to obtain the phone and provided the individual with material from T.M.’s SSA file to help that person find her.

As further alleged, Conger falsely told federal agents that he never had any physical or sexual contact with a claimant, including T.M., even after being notified that he was the target of a federal grand jury investigation.

The maximum penalty for obstruction is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for the gratuity charge is two years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the maximum penalty for the theft of government property charge is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Speaking of sleaze, get a load of this quote from Conger's attorney, Mark White, of the Birmingham firm White Arnold Dowd:

"This unfortunate situation represents an anomaly in the long, distinguished career of an excellent judge and a good person. Judge Conger has accepted responsibility for his actions and is prepared to face the consequences."

White wants us to believe that Conger was a noble and honorable guy until he woke up one morning, while in his 70s, and suddenly decided to trade SSI benefits for sex? My guess is that Conger has been getting away with such behavior for years. If that doesn't test your gag reflex, I'm not sure anything will.

Judge Conger apparently kept a low profile online, but this appears to be his son, Paul Stribling Conger III.

Here is a record of Judge Conger's SSI rulings over the past six years. Looks like he approved roughly 75 percent of his cases, which I suspect is an extremely high approval rating for an SSI judge. Does that mean a lot of people appearing before Conger were willing to "put out" for the judge?

And what about judges who have been close to Conger over the years? Did his sleaze rub off on them? It's hard to say at this time, but one of his proteges is U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler who clerked under Conger.

A-Advance Bail Bonds company, connected to recent arrest of Tuscaloosa attorney John Fisher Jr., is the site of a fire that officials say appears to be arson

A-Advance Bail Bonds in Tuscaloosa
(From Tuscaloosa News)
A bail bonds company, connected to the recent arrest of a Tuscaloosa attorney and another man on meth-trafficking charges, was the site of a suspicious fire Sunday morning.

The fire was contained toward the back of the A-Advance Bail Bonds building on T.Y. Rogers Avenue, according to a report in The Tuscaloosa News. The building sustained minor damage to the siding and wood framing, but officials said the fire appeared to have been intentionally set.

The business was involved in the recent arrest of attorney John Fisher Jr. and Christopher Shane Rushing, a Northport man who has an extensive criminal record, much of it related to possession or distribution of controlled substances.

From an article published Monday in The Tuscaloosa News, written by reporter Stephanie Taylor:

Firefighters say that a fire at a bail bonding company Sunday appears to have been set intentionally.

The fire set at the back of the A-Advance Bail Bonds building caused minor damage to the siding and wood framing, said Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service Fire Marshal Gene Holcomb.

It's the same business owned by a bail bondsman who was involved in the recent arrest of Tuscaloosa attorney John Fisher.

Firefighters were called to the business on T.Y. Rogers Avenue Sunday morning, Holcomb said.

"It is suspicious, and we are investigating," he said. Arson investigators have recovered samples from the site, he said.

Why would someone intentionally set a fire at A-Advance Bail Bonds? Does it involve the company's prime role in one of the most peculiar crimes in recent west Alabama history? Writes Taylor:

Drug investigators were at the business last week after bail bondsman Mark Flemmings found a backpack containing a meth lab in the office.

He told investigators that Christopher Shane Rushing had left the bag in his office, and he suspected that he was being set up to be arrested, according to court documents. West Alabama Narcotics Task Force agents watched the business, and reported that they saw Fisher arrive and later leave with the bag. The agents followed Fisher back to his office on Greensboro Avenue, and later charged him and Rushing with trafficking methamphetamine.

Records from the Alabama Secretary of State show Markeithian N. and Sparkle M. Flemmings being involved in a number of businesses related to bail bonds and real estate. The registered office address for A-Advance Bail Bonds is listed as: 14966 TOWNSEND LOOP RD, MOUNDVILLE, AL 35474.

The Flemmings, understandably, find the recent events disturbing and are determined to get to the bottom of them. Writes Taylor:

Flemmings is offering a $1,000 reward for anyone who provides information leading to an arrest for the fire.

"We're actively trying to find out who did it," he said. "I don't know where this is coming from. I'm not a person who carries enemies at all. As far as why I was a target, I don't know."

Flemmings received a call that his building was on fire at 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

Was the arson designed to intimidate Flemmings? If so, it doesn't seem to be working:

"I don't think this was a random act," he said. "I hope we can bring the people who did it to justice and prosecute them properly. They will be brought to justice, I promise you that."

He declined to comment on the charges against Fisher and Rushing.

The Alabama Supreme Court has appointed a Walker County Circuit Judge to preside over their cases because Fisher has practiced for years in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court.

Walker County Circuit Court Judge Henry Allred will preside over a preliminary hearing scheduled for Sept. 23.

Flemmings might not know where the arson is coming from, but it should be noted that Fisher's Facebook friends page suggests he is well connected in conservative political, legal, and media circles. Gov. Robert Bentley and Sec. of State John Merrill are among his Facebook friends. From our recent post on the subject:

A report at Raw Story, by reporter David Ferguson, states that Fisher is active in Alabama's Tea Party movement. In 2010, Fisher ran for a seat in the state legislator and appeared at multiple Tea Party rallies with Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Fisher lost the primary election to Republican Bill Poole. Ferguson notes that Fisher's show claims it is known for "“Plain Talk, Easily Understood with NO Political Correctness.”

Is Fisher well connected in conservative circles? In addition to Bentley and Merrill, consider just a few prominent figures who appear on Fisher's Facebook friends list:

* Jessica Mederios Garrison -- lawyer, GOP operative, closely aligned with AG Luther Strange and U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer. (Palmer has spent a significant amount of cash for Garrison's consulting services. More on that in an upcoming post.)

* Lee Garrison -- Jessica's former husband and president of the Tuscaloosa City School Board

* Cliff Sims -- publisher of Yellowhammer News

* Leland Whaley -- right-wing talk host

* Matt Murphy -- right-wing talk host

* Chip Beeker -- Alabama Public Service Commission

* Gary Palmer -- member of U.S. House of Representatives

* Brandon Falls -- district attorney, Jefferson County (appointed by former Gov. Bob Riley)

* Cam Parsons -- attorney for real-estate magnate Stan Pate

* Allen May -- veterinarian and director at Paul Bryant Jr.'s Greene Group

Fisher's friends list also includes a number of individuals who appear to be from Russia or Ukraine. Since the above report was published on August 22, Fisher's Facebook page was taken down for a few days, but now is back up.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Records show that Dr. William Flynn Walker's unspeakable child abuse stretched to Russia and the Caribbean, but the press mostly ignored it

Child sexual abuse: In Alabama and beyond
(From and Shutterstock)
A former Alabama physician, who in a roundabout way became a major figure in the Upton v. Upton divorce case, was involved in child sexual abuse of international proportions, according to newly discovered documents.

Dr. William Flynn Walker is the biological father of Gincie Walker Upton, whose affair with Birmingham steel executive Bill Upton broke up a marriage of more than 30 years to Linda Upton and led to numerous dubious rulings in the divorce case from Jefferson County private judge Gary Pate.

Walker pleaded guilty to seven federal counts of transporting three different children across state lines between 1984 and 2004 and engaging in illegal sexual acts with them. He also pleaded guilty to state charges of sexual abuse and first-degree sodomy. In August 2006, Walker was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison, without the possibility of parole. He currently is housed at the Federal Correctional Institute at Butner, North Carolina, and is scheduled for release in 2033.

New documents, from the revocation of Walker's medical license, strongly suggest that he did not act alone, but he is the only one to be held accountable for a series of horrific crimes that took place over more than 20 years.

As we noted in a previous post, Walker was a prominent figure in the conservative, evangelical community in Birmingham's southern suburbs. He had been a member at Briarwood Presbyterian Church (PCA) before leaving to start a home schooling program at Evangel Christian Church (PCA).

The Walker convictions took place roughly 10 years ago -- and they involved horrifying examples of child abuse in a community that is known for its right-wing religious fervor -- and yet Web research almost suggests the case never happened. We've been able to find two relatively brief stories at the Shelby County Reporter, which provide the barest of details, and we can find no sign of coverage from The Birmingham News/ That news outlet, the state's largest, was run at the time by members of the Hanson family, who've long had connections to Briarwood Church.

Gincie Walker Upton, now in her 30s, has been diagnosed with multiple-personality disorder. Is that because she was so close to, and perhaps a victim of, her father's criminal acts? Was she a witness to the criminal acts of other prominent individuals who never have been held accountable? Does Alabama have a statute of limitations on cases involving alleged child sexual abuse? Our research indicates the answer is no.

Documents related to the revocation of Dr. Walker's medical license provide perhaps the most detailed account of his actions that has become public so far. (See the documents at the end of this post.) What do the documents tell us? Consider the following:

Based upon evidence presented, the Medical Licensure Commission makes the following findings of fact:

1. September 30, 2005, Dr. Walker was indicted in the United States District Court, Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division, on seven criminal felony counts for violating 18 U.S.C. 2424.

2. All of the felony charges involved transporting minor females in interstate and foreign commerce with the intent that the minor females engage in sexual activity. The minor females were transported from Alabama to Colorado, Kentucky, Florida, Wyoming, the Caribbean, and Russia.

That is shocking stuff. Dr. Walker did not just take the girls to Georgia or Mississippi. He took them to Colorado, Wyoming -- even Russia and the Caribbean. Russia has become known as a hub for human trafficking.

Briarwood Presbyterian Church
Attorney Wayne Turner was appointed as hearing officer in the case. According to Alabama State Bar records, a Wayne P. Turner practices in Wetumpka.

Our sources say Dr. Walker's victims included his own children, plus the children of others. Some of the trips obviously were via flight. It's not clear if those within the United States involved air travel or ground vehicles. It's also not clear if boys ever were among the abuse victims. The documents we've seen so far point only to girls as victims, and we are not sure about the age range.

How could Dr. Walker engage in such activity for 20 years without the assistance of others? How could he engage in such activity for 20 years without other adults knowing about it -- and failing to at least try to stop it?

Those are just two of many disturbing questions raised by the story of Dr. William Flynn Walker, which might be the most disturbing crime spree in the history of Alabama, especially when you consider its length and the ages of the victims. That media and religious and perhaps corporate figures apparently helped cover it up makes it even more gut-wrenching.

One gets the sense that Dr. Walker had a number of accomplices who probably are still out there, in Birmingham's southern suburbs and in its most fervent religious institutions, perhaps with easy access to a new generation of children. That suggests the Dr. William Flynn Walker case is far from over, that overwhelmingly white and affluent neighborhoods are housing some extremely dark secrets.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Circuit Judge Don Blankenship, who travels a path worn by Martin Luther King and other heroes, sullies any notion of civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama

Don Blankenship
Of all the outrageous court orders I've seen over the past 16 years, none can top the default judgment that awarded GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison a $3.5-million in a defamation action against me. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Don Blankenship issued an order, denying my motion to vacate the default judgment, that is wrong on every substantive matter of fact or law.

The good news is that Blankenship's order is void, and I have an unlimited amount of time to have it overturned and declared a nullity. (More on that in an upcoming post.) The bad news is that Blankenship is a black Democrat, and in my three appearances before him, I thought he seemed like an intelligent, fair individual. Boy, was I wrong about that. That a black judge in Birmingham, Alabama -- site of historic civil-rights conflicts in the 1960s -- could trample black-letter law . . . well, one wonders the speed at which Martin Luther King's body must be spinning in his grave.

To put it bluntly, Don Blankenship is a disgrace to the many people -- of all colors -- who put their lives on the line to ensure that black Americans would enjoy fundamental human rights. To put it bluntly, Blankenship is a sellout. There is little doubt in my mind that someone in Birmingham's white legal power structure got to him and probably offered him some sort of favor in exchange for the noxious ruling examined below. How bad is Blankenship's order (which can be viewed at the end of this post)? Let's take a look:

Improper notice of Garrison's default judgment

It's undisputed that I never received lawful notice of Garrison's application for a default judgment or of a hearing on the matter. Blankenship blamed that on me, but he never cites any law to support his finding. That's because there isn't any; the burden was on Garrison to give notice -- and she didn't do it. From Blankenship's order:

The Defendant argues that this Court’s Order dated April 13, 2015, should be set aside on the procedural ground that notice of the default was not afforded the Defendant three days before its entry. The Defendant relies on Rule 55 of the Ala. R.Civ. P. in making this argument. On January 13, 2015, this Court granted the Plaintiff’s Motion for Default, however that default was not entered until damages were affixed to same. Damages were affixed on April 13, 2015, after a hearing had taken place to prove damages on March 19, 2015. The Court sent notices of the aforementioned hearings to the last known address of the Defendant. It is not the Court’s responsibility to determine the whereabouts of the Defendant; but, it is the responsibility of the Defendant to inform the Court of his whereabouts. The notice of the first leave to prove damages hearing was given more than thirty days in advance of that hearing. Moreover, notice was sent to the Defendant that the aforementioned hearing was continued until March 19, 2015. Therefore, the Defendant was given ample notice of the hearing to prove damages, but failed or refused to attend such hearing. Consequently, the Defendant’s procedural argument fails.

For a judge to write such utter horse manure is . . . well, it's pitiful. Blankenship is correct that it's not the court's duty to determine my whereabouts. But as we showed in an earlier post, under a case styled Abernathy v. Green Tree Servicing (Ala. Civ. App., 2010), it is Garrison's duty to make sure I have at least three days notice of the default hearing. And she failed, meaning her default judgment is void, and Blankenship had no discretion to find otherwise.

On top of that, court documents show that my e-mail address was on every document I filed with the court. Garrison or her attorney, Bill Baxley, easily could have sent me an e-mail to determine my whereabouts. They never did that. I think they didn't do it because they didn't want me there; they wanted Garrison and Attorney General Luther Strange to blabber in court without pesky questions from the opposing side -- questions that might center on their professional, and personal, relationship.

To fully grasp Blankenship's corrupt motives, we invite you to examine the two highlighted areas above. He says default was granted on January 13, 2015, but he gives no indication that I was there (I wasn't), that notice was sent (it apparently wasn't), or that I received it (I didn't). He claims notice was sent for a hearing on damages set for March 19, 2015. But under Abernathy, that is beside the point. The plaintiff must receive three days' notice of the application for default and any hearing on the matter -- and Blankenship's own words show I did not.

Blankenship proceeds to address two other "substantive issues," both of which he gets wrong. We will address those issues in an upcoming post, but for now, all we need to know is that Garrison's default judgment is void, and Judge Blankenship's own words help prove it.

For good measure, I have an unlimited amount of time to get her bogus judgment reduced to ashes. And that is where it will wind up.

Blankenship is a black Democrat, and Garrison is a white Republican. But it appears they have at least one thing in common -- they went to law school for appearances sake, and no other reason. Clearly, they neither one have any respect for, or interest in, the law or justice.

That Don Blankenship would turn into a shill for Jessica Garrison, her lawyer Bill Baxley, and her prime political candidate/boyfriend Luther Strange provides a classic example of just how far our system has fallen.

Here is a theory I've developed since our unpleasant introduction to the legal world began about 2000: The practice of law, I think, presents a pretty miserable existence for many lawyers. Yes, a fair number of them become relatively wealthy and live in gated communities, with golf courses winding through them. Some become partners at large firms where they are expected to perform as "rainmakers" that keep their fellow elites living in style, while junior attorneys and paralegals do most of the real work. And some, like Blankenship, wind up in solo or small practices where they can do OK financially, but they have to put up with crooked judges and arrogant opposing counsel in order to do it -- and they have to look the other way when their own low-end clients get shafted and the solo/small-firm lawyer can do nothing about it. In other words, they see the casualties of one-sided legal war, but unlike the hero surgeons on M*A*S*H, they cannot piece them back together with meatball surgery. After awhile, I suspect, that scenario starts eating at one's soul.

So, what happens? If a mediocre black lawyer like Blankenship, or a mediocre white one like J. Michael Joiner, is lucky enough to become a judge, he hangs onto the position for dear life. They want to become "judge for life," and my impression is that they would slit their grandmother's throat to achieve that. Why? Because they are desperate not to go back to the drudgery and financial uncertainty of being a crappy lawyer.

If someone suggested that he could help make Don Blankenship a "judge for life" -- in exchange for screwing me over in the Garrison case -- I'm sure it would take "Dandy Don" about 2.3 seconds to make that deal.

In 2012, Blankenship was elected to the bench over Republican David Lawrence Faulkner, in a race that probably was decided strictly along racial lines. Blankenship is up for re-election in 2018, and I'm betting he runs unopposed. That's a nice, cheap way for elite white lawyers to buy "justice" for clients like Jessica Garrison. If Blankenship does have opposition in 2018, it will be a sign (I believe) that he received a handsome "gratuity" in exchange for the pathetic order you see below.

What's that saying about how awful it is to watch sausage being made? I'm guessing it's almost as horrifying to see "justice" being made in the US of A.

(To be continued)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Decision to throw out criminal charges against cop in Sureshbhai Patel case leaves the foul odor of judicial incompetence, juror racism, and flaming injustice

U.S. Judge Madeline Haikala
(Final post in a series)

Which is more damaging to our society, a corrupt/incompetent judge handling a case of constitutional importance or a jury tainted with racism deciding such a case?

U.S. v. Eric Parker raises this troubling question, plus many others. Parker is the Madison, Alabama, police officer who body slammed and partially paralyzed Sureshbhai Patel, an unarmed grandfather from India who simply was walking down a sidewalk at the time of his encounter with American law enforcement.

We don't have an answer to the question posed above, but evidence is overwhelming that judicial incompetence (or corruption) and juror racism (or blinding ignorance) were present. This much is certain: U.S. Judge Madeline Haikala stomped on any notion that justice can be achieved in Alabama's federal courts when she threw out criminal charges against Parker--after two juries had reached deadlocks.

Now, back to our two-part question:

(1) Are white jurors so blinded by racial bias that they cannot issue just decisions?

Americans have a tendency to get misty-eyed about our jury system, to feel that it's virtually sacrosanct and ranks as "the best system in the world." If that's the case, it's not because our system is noble and dependable; it's because all of the other systems are wretched.

How bad were the juries in the two Parker trials? Consider this from a Think Progress article on the proceedings:

The trials ended with a jury split along race and gender lines. Ten white males pushed to acquit and two black female jurors pushed for guilty.

Are white males in Alabama so blinded by bias against people of color that they cannot see what clearly is shown on video of the incident? (See video at the end of this post.) The images cannot be disputed: Parker used his left foot to perform a "leg sweep" that caused Patel to crash head-first to the ground. Multiple expert witnesses testified at trial that the leg sweep generally is not an authorized technique in American law enforcement, and relevant law clearly states that actions showing "reckless disregard" for a person's rights amount to the "wilfullness" required for a criminal conviction under 18 U.S.C. 242.

To repeat our question: Are white males so blinded by racial bias that they cannot reach a verdict of guilty against a white police officer -- when the facts and the law clearly show such a verdict is justified? The only answer we can come up with is yes.

(2) How blatant, and goofy, can judicial incompetence/corruption be, and what impact does it have on our justice system?

Was Judge Haikala drinking, or smoking crack, when she presided over the case and wrote her opinion?

I'm only slightly joking with that question. The reality is that Haikala probably gave the job of writing the opinion to a clerk, with instructions to make sure it was 90 pages or so long -- so people would think it was serious and be less likely to read it. What do you learn if you actually read the whole thing? Well, I can only wonder if Judge Haikala has a few loose shingles on her roof -- or maybe the clerk was desperate for material to reach the required length. Let's focus on two issues:

(A) Haikala suggests that it was partly Patel's fault that he got beat up by an Alabama cop. First, she suggests Patel committed a crime -- one so obscure that even the officers apparently were not aware of it. On page 14 of her opinion, Haikala (or her clerk) writes:

Mr. Patel, a resident alien, violated 8 U.S.C. § 1304(e) when he left his son’s house without identification. . . .  That is a misdemeanor crime for which Officer Parker could have arrested Mr. Patel. 8 U.S.C. § 1304(e) (“Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration receipt card issued to him pursuant to subsection (d) of this section. Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor . . . .”); United States v. Vasquez-Ortiz, 344 Fed. Appx. 551, 555 (11th Cir. 2009)

From the record, it does not appear this was an issue at trial, and it's not clear if the officers ever asked Patel to present such a card. It certainly is not clear that Patel understood any such request. Is Haikala suggesting that Patel's failure to have such a card on him justifies getting his neck broken?

Given the language barrier in the encounter, it's not clear Patel could have complied if he'd had a card. This much is certain: Nothing in the language surrounding 18 U.S.C. 242 ("Deprivation of rights under color of law") suggests the presence or absence of identification is a factor in determining an officer's guilt or innocence. So why on earth did Haikala make it an issue?

(B) Astonishingly, Haikala spends roughly nine pages (p. 53-61) of her ruling discussing whether the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable force applies to a legal resident alien, such as Patel. That a federal judge apparently thinks there is some doubt about that issue boggles the mind. From pages 53-54 of her ruling:

United States citizens’ constitutional right to be free from a law enforcement officer’s use of unreasonable force is specific and definite. See Graham, 490 U.S. at 394 (“Where, as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right ‘to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable . . . seizures’ of the person.”) (emphasis added); Weiland v. Palm Beach Cnty. Sheriff's Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1326 (11th Cir. 2015) (“A citizen’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures includes ‘the right to be free from the use of excessive force in the course of an arrest.’”)(quoting Saunders v. Duke, 766 F.3d 1262, 1267 (11th Cir. 2014) (emphasis added)).

Haikala seems to suggest that the Fourth Amendment protects only an American citizen, not a resident alien, such as Patel. Where does she get such a notion? First, she and the cases she cites misquote the Fourth Amendment. Here is how the amendment actually reads:

Amendment IV 
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

As you can see, the actual language protects the right of "the people," not just "citizens," to be secure from excessive force. The people includes resident aliens, such as Mr. Patel. And it's hard to conceive that a federal judge is not aware of this. Legal scholars certainly know it. Consider the words of David Cole from the Georgetown University Law Center:

The Constitution does distinguish in some respects between the rights of citizens and noncitizens: the right not to be discriminatorily denied the vote and the right to run for federal elective office are expressly restricted to citizens. All other rights, however, are written without such a limitation. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection guarantees extend to all "persons." The rights attaching to criminal trials, including the right to a public trial, a trial by jury, the assistance of a lawyer, and the right to confront adverse witnesses, all apply to "the accused." And both the First Amendment's protections of political and religious freedoms and the Fourth Amendment's protection of privacy and liberty apply to "the people."

In short, contrary to widely held assumptions, the Constitution extends fundamental protections of due process, political freedoms, and equal protection to all persons subject to our laws, without regard to citizenship. These rights inhere in the dignity of the human being, and are especially necessary for people, like non-nationals, who have no voice in the political process.

David Cole knows what he's talking about; Madeline Haikala apparently has no clue.

Perhaps she is jockeying for an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court if Donald Trump is elected president. She would fit right in with his way of thinking.

Previously in the series:

(1) Here's the flip side of police-brutality cases -- July 13, 2016

(2) Federal judge in Alabama shows how cops tend to get favorable treatment in court -- July 18, 2016

(3) Judge threw out charges based on case that does not support her findings -- July 29, 2016

(4) Record indicates officer lied about three key issues in Patel brutality case -- August 5, 2016

(5) A jury could have found that officer violated Sureshbhai Patel's civil rights -- August 19, 2016

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Christopher Shane Rushing, the man arrested with Tuscaloosa lawyer for meth trafficking, has a history of arrests on similar charges, in multiple states

Christopher Shane Rushing,
in 2006 Georgia mugshot
The man who was arrested with Tuscaloosa lawyer John Fisher Jr. on meth-trafficking charges has been arrested at least twice before on similar charges. He also has at least one other arrest, for theft.

Public records and news accounts indicate Christopher Shane Rushing is no stranger to the criminal justice system, although we have not yet been able to compile a complete record on him.

On February 9, 2006, Rushing was arrested in Douglas County, Georgia, on two counts of trafficking methamphetamine, one count of possession of methamphetamine, and three counts of possession of a firearm during a crime. Bail was set at $100,000.

Just seven months later, on August 11, 2006, Rushing was arrested in Tuscaloosa and charged with unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. Bail was set at $20,000.

On February 5, 2008, Rushing was arrested and charged with attempted first-degree theft in Tuscaloosa. Bail was set at $10,000.

In all three instances, we have not yet been able to determine the disposition of the case. In the last two cases, Rushing's address was listed as the 13800 block of Chism Road in Northport.

An entry at, shows Rushing being arrested in Douglas County, Georgia, on April 8, 2009, but it does not list an offense. Another item on the Web suggests Rushing was arrested in Douglas County, Georgia, in 2013, but we do not yet have details. We also have seen an item that indicates Rushing was arrested for a serious traffic-related offense, but for now, the details on that are sketchy.

Much still is not known about Rushing's criminal history, but it appears he has been arrested at least five times in roughly the past 10 years.

Has Rushing been convicted and incarcerated in any of these cases? That remains unclear, but it appears that he never has spent much time behind bars for any of them.

A few questions come to mind? Why was attorney Fisher hanging around with a guy like this? Was Rushing a client or was he something else -- like a business associate in a "business" that is not authorized by law?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Suspicious Tuscaloosa bail bondsman took steps that set off a chain of events leading to the arrest of attorney John Fisher Jr. on meth-trafficking charges

John Fisher Jr.
(From Tuscaloosa News)
A bail bondsman, fearing he was being set up for a drug offense, took steps that led to the arrest last Friday of a Tuscaloosa attorney and another man on charges of trafficking methamphetamine, according to a new report.

The bail bondsman received a visit from Christopher Shane Rushing, who left a backpack in the bonding company's office. That raised the bondsman's suspicions, and they raised even more when he noticed the backpack contained items used to make meth, according to a report at The Tuscaloosa News. 

The bondsman contacted law enforcement, sparking a complicated series of events that led to the arrest of Rushing and attorney John L. Fisher. At one point in the proceedings, Fisher held a gun at his office, in the presence of drug task force agents. Did that play a role in his arrest? We aren't sure.

Due to the convoluted nature of events, I will run the entire T-News article below and hope readers can figure it out. If you are like me, you probably will have more questions when you finish than when you began. Part of that is due to the way the newspaper chose to report the story. For the record, the T-News has a subscription site, so that means a limited number of people can see this coverage. Hopefully, we are doing a public service by including the full article here:

Meth bust details released

Court records say bail bondsman called police
Stephanie Taylor
Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 9:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 9:22 p.m.

A bail bondsman who feared he was being set up called drug agents, sparking the investigation that led to the arrest of a Tuscaloosa attorney accused of meth trafficking.

The bondsman called the commander of the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force Friday and reported that Christopher Shane Rushing had left a backpack at his office, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

He had opened the bag and noticed that it contained items used to make methamphetamine, according to files.

The bondsman then spoke with a lieutenant who arranged for narcotics officers to observe the bonding company on T.Y. Rogers Avenue. Afterward, he called attorney John Fisher's office to tell him about the bag, and that he suspected he was being set up, according to the court documents.

Agents watching the business saw Fisher arrive and later leave with the bag. They followed him to his office, and saw as Rushing later arrived. Rushing placed the backpack in his car and went back into the office, according to the court filing.

The agents confronted Rushing when he later left the law office and met a woman in the parking lot. They searched the bag and found 369 grams of meth oil, digital scales with meth residue, a bag of meth, lithium batteries, baggies and straws with meth residue. Agents went to speak with Fisher, who met them at the back door of the law office with a pistol in his hand.

Both men were arrested and charged with trafficking methamphetamine. Rushing faces additional counts of manufacturing a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance.

Fisher has practiced law in Tuscaloosa for nearly 20 years after earning his degree from The University of Alabama School of Law in 1997. He ran for the Alabama House of Representative District 63 seat in 2010, but was defeated by Rep. Bill Poole in the Republican primary.

A few questions that come quickly to mind:

(1) Why would anyone take drug paraphernalia to a bail bondsman's office, and why would he let it out of his control?

(2) Why was Rushing visiting the bail bondsman? Does he have a pending criminal matter? Does he have a criminal history. (Answer: Yes, and we will have more on that in an upcoming post.)

(3) Why did the bondsman place a call to Fisher? Had Fisher represented Rushing in a criminal matter? IF so, what were the charges?

(4) Why was Fisher holding a pistol when he greeted agents at the door to his office? Did that play a role in his arrest? Was he hit with a gun charge? If not, why not?

(5) Who was the woman that Rushing met in the parking lot? Why wasn't she been arrested? Will she be among the others expected to be arrested?

(6) Did agents search Fisher's office, and if so, did they find something that caused them to file trafficking charges against him? This account provides little evidence that Fisher was involved in trafficking.

(7) Why did the T-News omit certain details from its story? What is the bondsman's name, and what company does he work for? What is the lieutenant's name?

(8) Was the newspaper careful with certain details because it fears lives could be in danger? If that's the case, does it mean Fisher and Rushing are small pieces in a larger ring that includes some nasty individuals?

IRS should investigate and prosecute Donald Trump for tax evasion and political corruption, according to complaint about donations to Florida and Texas AGs

Pam Bondi and Donald Trump
The IRS should investigate Donald Trump and his organization, referring the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for criminal prosecution on tax-evasion charges, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Boston attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee filed the complaint on August 3, claiming that probable cause exists to establish that Trump failed to pay $25,000 for the 2013 tax year and failed to pay interest, taxes and penalties on at least $25,000 of unreported income. The alleged violations are connected to a campaign donation Trump made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. (See the complaint and related documents at the end of this post.)

The complaint also alleges that Trump failed to report income and pay taxes related to a $35,000 donation to Texas Attorney General Gregory Abbott's 2013 campaign for governor.

In both instances, the states were thinking about joining, or initiating, investigations or litigation against Trump University. After the donations arrived, both AGs withdrew from any actions that would cast scrutiny on Trump University.

Larrabee's complaint alleges two counts of political corruption and one count of organized crime against Trump and the Trump Organization.

In a separate complaint, Larrabee alleges tax evasion against former Trump campaign manager Paul J. Manafort and related organizations regarding $12.7 million in cash payments Manafort received from the Ukraine Party of Regions between 2007 and 2012.

Taken together, Larrabee's documents portray a Republican presidential candidate who is at the center of a financial mess that could have criminal implications.

What about details regarding the donation to Florida AG Pam Bondi? From the complaint:

In summer of 2013, at a time when her office was reviewing complaints against Trump University and related entities, Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi personally solicited a campaign contribution from Trump.

Weeks after Bondi solicited the contribution, on September 17, 2013, a political group backing Bondi's re-election, called And Justice for All, reported receiving a $25,000 contribution from The Trump Foundation. In its 2013 990-PF Information Return, the Trump Foundation reported making a contribution to And Justice For All, although it listed the incorrect address for recipient of the $25,000 political contribution. The And Justice for All organization was established and maintained by Bondi. In a Statement of Solicitation Filed by Bondi on August 6, 2013 with the Florida Division of Elections, as required by Florida Statute, 106.0701, Bondi stated that she “established and “maintained” the And Justice for All political organization.

What are the implications of the transaction? Larrabee spells it out in stark legal details:

The payment made to Bondi’s political committee was a bribe given in exchange for Bondi’s agreement not to join in or initiate litigation against Trump, Trump University, and related entities.

In violation of his fiduciary duty as the president and manager of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, Trump arranged for Donald J. Trump Foundation to make the payment to Bondi’s political group.

It is illegal under the laws of the United States, Florida and New York for charities to make political contributions. 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) provides that charitable foundations may not “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

If the IRS takes a close look, it could spell trouble for Trump:

By misappropriating the assets of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and converting the assets of the foundation for his own personal use so as to promote his political agenda,Trump personally benefited from the campaign contribution to And Justice for All. Because Trump converted and stole money from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, for his own use and benefit, he had a duty to report the $25,000 as income on his 2013 tax return.

There is probable cause to conclude that Trump did not report the $25,000 payment as income and that he did not pay taxes on this income because the payment itself was an illegal one, and it is unlikely that Trump voluntarily disclosed his illegal acts to the United States government.

The allegations regarding the Abbott donation in Texas feature a similar refrain:

In 2010, Richard Berlin, an Assistant Attorney General with the Texas Consumer Protection Division requested permission to file a lawsuit against Trump University,Trump and his business partners seeking more than $5.4 million in penalties and restitution related to fraud and deceptive business practices. The suit was dropped by the office of Texas Attorney General Gregory Abbott. Former Texas Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens said the case was strong and had been dropped for political reasons. In 2013, Trump contributed $35,000 to Attorney General Abbott in his campaign to be Governor of Texas. Gregory Abbott is presently the Governor of Texas. Trump has engaged in a pattern of corrupt influence peddling.

To his credit, Trump has been up front about the way he conducts business and political affairs. Unfortunately, it appears his methods conflict with the law. Writes Larrabee:

Trump has publicly declared that he gives political contributions to elected officials in exchange for political favors. On July 16, 2016, while campaigning in Laconia, New Hampshire, Trump spoke about Jeb Bush’s fundraising. He stated: "He raises 100 million, so what does 100 million mean? 100 million means he's doing favors for so many people, it means lobbyists, it means special interests, it means donors. . . . Who knows it better than me? I give to everybody. They do whatever I want. It's true." On January 9, 2016, at a campaign rally in Clear Lake Iowa, which was broadcast on C-SPAN, Trump boasted, “You know, it's interesting. I was looking at the ones I'm running against. I've contributed to most of them -- can you believe it? I've contributed to most of them. And one of them said, No, I don't think you've contributed to me. They found out I did. I contribute to everybody. I've given to Democrats. I've given to Hillary. I've given to everybody, because that was my job. I've got to give to them. because when I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass. It's true. They kiss my ass. It's true.”

It's almost comical now to read Trump's words. But they aren't so funny when taken in context with federal law, as Larrabee points out:

There is probable cause to conclude that, in exchange for Trump’s promise of financial support, Abbott agreed not to pursue litigation against Trump University, Trump and Trump’s business partners, to the benefit of Trump and The Trump Organization.
By avoiding litigation in exchange for the payment of a bribe, Trump and The Trump Organization not only received a $5.4 million dollar benefit in that they avoided paying penalties and restitution, but they also received a valuable benefit in that they avoided the attorney’s fees and litigation costs that they would have incurred if the Attorney General’s Office had moved forward with the recommended litigation.

There is probable cause to conclude that Trump and The Trump Organization did not report the $5.4 million benefit as income and that they did not pay taxes on this income because the payment itself was an illegal one and it is unlikely that Trump or The Trump Organization voluntarily disclosed these illegal acts to the United States government.

There is probable cause to obtain indictments against Trump and The Trump Organization for tax evasion in the 2010 to 2013 time period related to the failure to report and pay taxes on more than $5.4 million in income.

Where is this headed? That is not clear. But this is clear: Attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee isn't messing around.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuscaloosa lawyer John Fisher Jr., arrested on charges of trafficking methamphetamine, had gone on Facebook to trash people who use illegal drugs

John Fisher Jr.
The Alabama lawyer who was arrested Friday for methamphetamine trafficking had used Facebook to rant against those who use illegal drugs.

That is one of the nuggets we learned yesterday as the story of Tuscaloosa attorney John Fisher Jr. made national, even international, headlines -- including commentary from one of America's best-known legal analysts.

The New York Daily News portrayed Fisher, who was arrested with Christopher Shane Rushing, as a colossal right-wing hypocrite. The Daily News focused on comments Fisher had made at the Facebook page for his radio show. Writes reporter Alfred Ng:

Fisher has publicly spoken out against illegal drug use in the past on his radio show’s page.

In one post defending gun owners, he called himself a “law abiding citizen” and criticized the government for not spending more resources on taking drugs off the streets.

“Illegal drug use is a MUCH more expensive drain on society in terms of healthcare and work issues,” he wrote in his rant.

Fisher is a "law abiding" guy -- at least if you don't count meth trafficking? Geez, this guy takes conservative hypocrisy to galactic levels. And like many conservatives, he doesn't seem to show the slightest concern for the misfortunes of others -- in fact, he mocks them. Fisher went out of his way to knock an Alabama family that had wrestled with substance abuse. Writes Ng:

In 2013, he also called out Alabama’s then-secretary of law enforcement Spencer Collier after his son Christopher Collier was arrested for selling Oxycodone pills.

The UK Daily Mail took the Fisher story to international levels. Reporter Ariel Zilbert shines light on Fisher and Rushing's behavior:

The two men were alleged to have been in possession of 'one-pot' meth labs.

One-pot labs are methods by which individuals can manufacture the drug with chemicals and a plastic bottle, thereby making it harder for authorities to track down offenders who eschew the large, traditional drug laboratories.

The men apparently were well versed in techniques for avoiding the attention of authorities. Sounds like somebody was a veteran at this game. But Zilbert describes how they came to draw attention anyway:

Law enforcement officials zeroed in on the suspects after receiving a tip indicating that Rushing was dropping off a backpack containing drug-making paraphernalia at an unspecified location.

According to The Tuscaloosa News, Fisher took the backpack and drove it back to his office nearby. The West Alabama Narcotics Task Force followed Fisher to his office. Soon after, Rushing was seen walking into the location and then walked out with the backpack. That was when authorities arrested both men.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley -- the veteran of numerous appearances on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and other public-affairs TV programs -- addressed the Fisher case on his blog. The piece included a photo of Fisher, under a headline reading "Can You Guess What This Person Was Charged With?" In other words, Fisher doesn't look much like the guy you would expect to be charged with meth trafficking. Writes Turley:

The police followed a tip and tracked what they believed as a backpack containing items believed to be components of a methamphetamine lab to an unreleased location. The backpack was then picked up by a second man. That man then went to an office located in the 1600 block of Greensboro Avenue in Tuscaloosa. Fisher’s law office is located at 1609 Greensboro Avenue. They then saw the first man arrive at the office and walk out with the same backpack. They arrested both Fisher and Rushing. Later they found what police described as an active “one-pot” meth lab in one of their cars.

Turley then looked at the case with the eye of a big-time lawyer, the kind we rarely write about here:

We have not heard Fisher’s side of this arrest. Fisher may claim that Rushing is a client and that this was evidence, but it is not clear whose car contained the meth pot. Moreover, absent an effort to turn over evidence to police or prosecutors, the holding of criminal components is not something that is likely to convince a court. Conversely, it may be argued that he was working with Rushing to shutdown his operation. However, again, the possession of such material is problematic for a lawyer. As a conservative radio host, Fisher promised “Plain Talk, Easily Understood with NO Political Correctness.” This may be his greatest challenge yet.

Perhaps Fisher will need an attitude adjustment to work his way out of this mess. Some people likely have worked up a certain level of sympathy for Fisher, but I'm having a hard time doing that. To me, he comes across as a world-class, right-wing hypocrite and . . . well, an a-hole. Consider his own words from Facebook:

America has become a country of people who believe as a whole that no one has any personal responsibility for their reckless, careless, ignorant, callous, incorrect choices in life. You will never legislate personal responsibility into anyone. This must be instilled in each person through family, and societal values and education. Unfortunately America has moved away from instilling such values in our citizens and now favor a blame someone or something else mentality.

Will Fisher take "personal responsibility" for his actions or will he look to blame someone or something else? That might be the biggest question at the heart of a case that raises many questions.

Chilton County Judge Sibley Reynolds ordered Jemison man sent to jail for posting critical remarks on social media about the handling of his divorce case

Chilton County Judge Sibley Reynolds
(From Montgomery Advertiser)
A central Alabama man recently was thrown in jail for using social media to post critical comments about the judge in his divorce case.

Carlos B. Ortigoza, of Jemison, served a day in the Chilton County Jail after Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds found him in contempt of court for violating an order not to post on social media about a divorce case styled Renee Hicks Ortigoza v. Carlos B. Ortigoza. Reynolds originally ordered Carlos Ortigoza incarcerated for five days, but decided to free him after one day.

Reynolds has a history of unlawfully throwing people in jail. If his name sounds familiar, that's because you might have read about his abusive actions here against a female litigant. (More on that in a moment.)

In an order dated July 18, Reynolds stated that Ortigoza was "prohibited from posting on social media anything concerning issues that fall within the control of the Court Order of Final Decree." (See order at the end of this post.) On August 3, Ortigoza posted about the case at GoFundMe, with the post also appearing at Facebook, and described Reynolds as a "corrupt judge." At a court hearing the next day, the post was brought to Reynolds' attention, and he ordered Ortigoza to jail for five days. (See order at the end of this post.)

Does Reynolds have the authority to tell someone in advance that they cannot write on social media? I haven't been able to find such authority, and it's hard to imagine that any exists. Considering that I was thrown in jail for five months in Shelby County (just north of Chilton) because I write Legal Schnauzer, one must wonder if Alabama is about to become a First Amendment-free zone.

Screenshot from Carlos
Ortigoza's GoFundMe page
In my case, lawyer Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke sued me for defamation and sought a preliminary injunction, which has been forbidden under First Amendment law for more than 200 years. In other words, Riley and Duke wanted a judge to order me to quit writing about their extramarital affair prior to any finding that my reporting was false or defamatory. That, under the law, is called a "prior restraint" and it is unlawful. Ultimately, Riley and Duke failed to prove their case at trial -- because there was no trial, before a jury or anyone else -- and that means, by law, my reporting was neither false nor defamatory.

Reynolds' order forbidding Ortigoza to write about a certain subject on social media almost certainly is an unlawful prior restraint. And his order to have Ortigoza incarcerated for practicing free speech probably amounts to false arrest/false imprisonment.

It's almost impossible to successfully sue a judge for such violations of civil rights. But Ortigoza probably would have a civil case against anyone who participated with Reynolds in a false-imprisonment scheme. Also, Ortigoza could file a complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC), which currently is busy trying to get Roy Moore off the Alabama Supreme Court, although that august body is notorious for failing to discipline rogue judges.

Immunity, for the most part, protects judges from civil complaints, but they are not above criminal law. It's way past time for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate Reynolds and the relationships he has with certain favored lawyers. Our guess is that a federal indictment against Reynolds could be quite lengthy.

Unlawfully tossing someone in jail is a familiar tactic for Reynolds; it's as if he takes a perverse delight in violating the rules he is sworn to uphold. In 2012, Reynolds kept Clanton resident Bonnie Calahane in the "Chilton Hilton" for almost five months over issues connected to her divorce from Harold Wyatt. Reynolds found Cahalane in contempt for failing to pay a debt of about $165,000 related to the divorce -- even though Alabama case law states that a party cannot be subject to contempt, and incarceration, for failure to pay a property-related debt from the dissolution of a marriage.

How does Reynolds get away with this stuff? Well, in our "justice system," no one oversees judges, especially if the DOJ has been sound asleep, as it has during most of President Barack Obama's tenure. Judges almost never can be sued; outfits like the the JIC tend to be worthless and spineless. Appellate courts are more likely to cover for a corrupt judge than to do anything about his crooked acts.

The only solution is for everyday citizens to become informed and outraged, demanding reform in a broken system. Pehaps the Carlos Ortigoza case will draw national attention and help unmask Sibley Reynolds, and others like him, before a wide audience.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Tuscaloosa lawyer John Fisher Jr. has deep connections in conversative political circles -- when he isn't busy allegedly trafficking in methamphetamine

John Fisher Jr. and family
(From Facebook)
A Tuscaloosa lawyer who was arrested on Friday for trafficking in methamphetamine has extensive ties in conservative legal, political, and media circles. In fact, John Fisher's Jr.'s Facebook friends include Gov. Robert Bentley, Sec. of State John Merrill, and just about every prominent right-wing blowhard that you've ever heard on Alabama radio.

Facebook and LinkedIn pages indicate Fisher, 48, has an attractive wife and a young daughter, plus multiple business interests, but he still found time to get trapped in a meth-trafficking investigation. How's that for "family values"?

When have you ever heard of a white-collar professional, especially one who is well connected in right-wing political circles, getting nabbed in a meth-trafficking operation? I can't recall ever hearing of such a case. That's what could make the Fisher arrest an extraordinary story, even though we only have bits and pieces of information at the moment.

Agents with the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force found Fisher and Christopher Shane Rushing (age 42, also of Tuscaloosa) with two active "one-pot" meth labs. Agents also seized 369 grams of meth oil during the investigation, according to police.

Based on press reports, the exact charges against Fisher are unclear. An report says Fisher was released from jail after posting a $250,000 bond, while Rushing remains in jail on a $250,000 bond.

At, the charges against Rushing are listed as follows:

Agency    Bond Type                           Bond Amount     Count Charge

The Web site does not appear to include information about charges against Fisher. The information above appears to conflict with that found at shows Rushing facing three charges with a total bond of $765,000, which is more than twice the amount listed at Our understanding is that those arrested normally can be released by paying 10 percent of the total bond, which would be $76,500 in this case.

Does Fisher face the same charges and the same total bond amount. That is not clear at this point.

At the Tuscaloosa News, a police spokesperson said more arrests are expected in the case. That raises this question: How big a meth-trafficking operation is this and were other conservative legal/political figures involved?

Christopher Shane Rushing
According to his LinkedIn page, Fisher is owner and administrator of Adams Independent Living Home in Tuscaloosa. He has owned the Fisher Law Firm P.C., which is at 1609 Greensboro Avenue in Tuscaloosa, for 17 years. And he is host of the John Fisher Talk Show on WTBC (AM-1230). Before that, Fisher was an attorney with Rosen Harwood, one of the most prominent law firms in west Alabama.

The Web site for John Fisher Law Firm says it focuses on personal injury, criminal defense, business law, family law and mediation, estate planning, and probate.

A report at Raw Story, by reporter David Ferguson, states that Fisher is active in Alabama's Tea Party movement. In 2010, Fisher ran for a seat in the state legislator and appeared at multiple Tea Party rallies with Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Fisher lost the primary election to Republican Bill Poole. Ferguson notes that Fisher's show claims it is known for "“Plain Talk, Easily Understood with NO Political Correctness.”

Is Fisher well connected in conservative circles? In addition to Bentley and Merrill, consider just a few prominent figures who appear on Fisher's Facebook friends list:

* Jessica Mederios Garrison -- lawyer, GOP operative, closely aligned with AG Luther Strange and U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer. (Palmer has spent a significant amount of cash for Garrison's consulting services. More on that in an upcoming post.)

* Lee Garrison -- Jessica's former husband and president of the Tuscaloosa City School Board

* Cliff Sims -- publisher of Yellowhammer News

* Leland Whaley -- right-wing talk host

* Matt Murphy -- right-wing talk host

* Chip Beeker -- Alabama Public Service Commission

* Gary Palmer -- member of U.S. House of Representatives

* Brandon Falls -- district attorney, Jefferson County

* Cam Parsons -- attorney for real-estate magnate Stan Pate

* Allen May -- veterinarian and director at Paul Bryant Jr.'s Greene Group

Where is this meth-trafficking investigation headed, and who else might be arrested? Stay turned. It could get extremely interesting.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A jury could have found that Officer Eric Parker willfully violated Sureshbhai Patel's civil rights, but Judge Madeline Haikala took it out of jurors' hands

Sureshbhai Patel
(Fifth post in a series)

Why did U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala throw out criminal charges against Alabama police officer Eric Parker in the vicious body slamming of Sureshbhai Patel, a grandfather from India? It certainly is not because Haikala's finding is well grounded in the law; we've shown in multiple posts that it isn't. (See previous posts at the end of this post.)

The law strongly suggests this case should have gone to a third jury after the first two deadlocked, that the key issue was a matter for jurors to decide. But Haikala did not allow that to happen.

Our research suggests Haikala's reasoning might best be summed up this way: Parker had to make a split-second decision about how to handle Patel, and his actions therefore could not meet the willful component required in a criminal civil-rights-case under 18 U.S.C. 242. The government had to show that Parker acted willfully -- that he had a specific intent to deprive Patel of his right to be free from excessive force --  and the split-second nature of the interaction between Parker and Patel makes it impossible for the government to meet that burden.

Here are Judge Haikala's own words on the subject, from page 90 of her 92-page opinion:

The evidence here reveals that Officer Parker made a split-second decision in a rapidly evolving situation rather than a premeditated decision to use violent force. . . . The Court does not mean to suggest that a single, split-second decision can never arise to the level of a constitutional violation so egregious that it supports a finding of intentional conduct. The record in this case simply is not strong enough to eliminate reasonable doubt. For that reason, the Court grants Officer Parker’s renewed motion for judgment of acquittal.

Haikala is being disingenuous here; she actually IS suggesting that an officer almost never can be held criminally accountable, at the federal level, if he acts in a stressful, harried situation. More importantly, Haikala ignores the full legal meaning of the word "willfully" in Section 242 cases.

That's strange because Haikala cites the full meaning of the term, upon which the Patel case largely hinges, on page 53 of her opinion:

“A person acts ‘willfully’ for purposes of section 242 when he acts with ‘a specific intent to deprive a person of a federal right made definite by decision or other rule of law,’ or ‘in open defiance or in reckless disregard of a constitutional requirement which has been made specific and definite.’” United States v. House, 684 F.3d 1173, 1199-1200 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91, 103, 105 (1945)).

As you can see, it's not just a matter of whether Parker acted with "specific intent." It also is a matter of whether he acted with "reckless disregard" of a constitutional requirement.

We invite you to view the video below and ask yourself, "Did Parker act with reckless disregard for Patel's rights when he clearly used a leg swipe to knock the older man's feet out from under him, causing him to land head-first on the ground, becoming partially paralyzed and sustaining injuries that required spinal fusion surgery?"

As Haikala acknowledges on page page 89 of her ruling, "willfulness generally is a question that a jury must resolve, and jurors generally are tasked with the responsibility for assessing the credibility of witnesses." United States v. Feliciano, 761 F.3d 1202, 1206 (11th Cir. 2014).

Multiple expert witnesses testified at trial that Parker's leg swipe is not among the techniques usually taught, or approved for use, in law enforcement. A jury clearly could have found that Parker's use of an improper technique constituted "reckless disregard," even though he acted in a split-second fashion.

So why did Haikala ensure that a third jury would not hear the case, after the first two had deadlocked? The answer to that question remains unclear, but the judge's actions certainly are not supported by law.

(To be continued)

Previously in the series:

(1) Here's the flip side of police-brutality cases -- July 13, 2016

(2) Federal judge in Alabama shows how cops tend to get favorable treatment in court -- July 18, 2016

(3) Judge threw out charges based on case that does not support her findings -- July 29, 2016

(4) Record indicates officer lied about three key issues in Patel brutality case -- August 5, 2016