|Luther Strange and his campaign manager/minion|
Jessica Medeiros Garrison
We can think of at least three reasons citizens might not want to get too excited about whatever Strange has planned in the Birmingham area:
(1) Strange is part of the corruption problem, not the solution, in metro Birmingham; I've seen evidence of that with mine own eyes;
(2) The Hubbard prosecution was politically tinged, and anything in and around Jefferson County likely will be even more so -- plus, we also look for it to have racial overtones;
(3) Early reports from al.com's John Archibald indicate the investigation will center on the Birmingham Water Works. (Wake me up when that one's over.) The Water Works board probably poses problems, but it hardly is the seat of corruption in the metro area. The heart of darkness in the Birmingham area beats loudest in its courthouses, law firms, and any entity that benefits from the Bob Riley Political Machine.
If Team Strange will not look into those three dark corners, it isn't going to accomplish much. My guess is that Luther and Co. have no intention of accomplishing much, other than to send a few black politicos to prison so that Luther can curry favor with white voters and enhance his chances at becoming governor in 2018. In fact, you can take this to the bank: Any "investigation" will leave the impression that the majority-white suburbs surrounding Birmingham -- Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Homewood, Hoover, Trussville, etc. -- are led by noble public servants who never have an impure thought (except when they are on Ashley Madison). My guess is that the Strange Gang won't even look for any possible corruption in the white suburbs; this will be all about nailing a few dark folks.
Why is Strange part of the problem? Just consider the defamation lawsuit that his former campaign manager, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, filed against Legal Schnauzer and yours truly. Here are several undeniable facts from that case:
(1) Garrison committed perjury in a hearing when she falsely claimed, under oath, that I had reported Strange was the biological father of her son. Strange also testified in the hearing, and if he made the same false claim under oath, he also committed perjury.
(2) Strange has every reason to know Garrison did not provide lawful notice of her default application and hearing, meaning the $3.5 million judgment she received is void -- a nullity that is worth zero. Has Strange spoken out on the subject? Absolutely not.
(3) Strange has every reason to know that Jefferson County Circuit Judge Don Blankenship acted corruptly in failing to vacate Garrison's default judgment. Strange also has every reason to know that Garrison attorney Bill Baxley acted corruptly -- or turned a blind eye to corruption happening right under his nose. Again, has Strange brought this to public attention? Nope.
Speaking of speaking out, Strange is planning to investigate the area where a journalist was arrested less than three years ago -- in Shelby County -- for writing a blog. The case was so wildly outside the law that it made international news, and the journalist was the only member of his profession in 2013 to be incarcerated in the western hemisphere. He was the only U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006, and based on our research, the only journalist in U.S. history to be imprisoned based on a preliminary injunction that has been prohibited under the First Amendment for more than 200 years.
That journalist, of course, is me. A Shelby County sheriff's deputy unlawfully entered our home, beat me up inside my own garage, doused me with pepper spray and hauled me for a five-month stay in the county jail -- all for writing a series of posts that never have been determined to be false or defamatory under the law. It's hard to imagine a more glaring example of corruption -- blatant criminality -- in the Birmingham area. Will Luther Strange investigate the lawyers, judges, and law-enforcement types who were behind it? Don't hold your breath.
Luther Strange has proven, without doubt, that he is a political animal, and a Birmingham grand jury under his purview is likely to be filled with political and racial overtones.
Mike Hubbard, for example, is a despicable human being, and he undoubtedly was guilty of the ethics charges against him. But Hubbard also was the No. 1 threat to Strange's goal of becoming governor, and there is little doubt Hubbard was prosecuted in order to get him out of the picture. Based on that -- and it pains me to say this -- the Hubbard convictions should be overturned on political-prosecution grounds. What was wrong when used against Don Siegelman at the federal level also is wrong when used against Mike Hubbard at the state level.
What does Strange hope to accomplish with the Jefferson County grand jury? My guess is that "Big Lutha" knows his Hubbard prosecution has pissed off a fair number of voters in his primary constituency -- white, pro-business conservatives. Strange probably hopes to win back such voters by shipping a number of black public officials off to prison, whether they have done anything wrong or not.
Matt Hart and Alice Martin, former colleagues in the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of Alabama and now a tag-team duo for Luther Strange, made a habit of going after people with dark faces and Democratic Party affiliations during the George W. Bush years. They know how that game is played, and I look for them to spearhead a re-run -- all in the name of furthering Luther Strange's political career, which likely will also further the political careers of Matt Hart and Alice Martin.
Here is the funny thing (as in ironic) that I'm sure has not occurred to Luther Strange: While Jefferson County probably has some corrupt black officials, the area's corruption problem overwhelmingly is driven by white conservatives -- especially those with links to former Governor Bob Riley. That corruption spreads into other parts of the metro area, especially Shelby County and Walker County and . . . well, just about every county that's anywhere near "the Ham." (Don't even get me started on Chilton County; Judge Sibley Reynolds represents a one-man assault on the U.S. Constitution.)
What are the chances that Luther Strange will go after even a few of the white sleazebags who actually drive corruption in Alabama's largest (and most important) metro area? The term "zero" comes to mind. In fact, I'd say "sub zero" might be a better description of the chances.
But if you are a black guy or gal, with ties to Birmingham Water Works or some other entity that might have left its mildly dirty laundry open to exposure, you probably should begin thinking about how you might look in an orange jumpsuit.