|Luther Strange and Robert Bentley|
First came an article that used the word "stinks" to describe a Jefferson County prosecution that Strange launched while still Alabama attorney general. Then came news that Strange might have violated campaign-finance laws, which could be a felony with a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. Yikes!
Both reports come from Alabama Political Reporter (APR), which suggests once again that the non-traditional press is much more likely than the mainstream media (MSM) to provide hard-hitting analysis and meaningful investigative reporting.
APR columnist Josh Moon focused on the "perjury" case brought against duly elected Jeffco district attorney Charles Todd Henderson. The title of Moon's article is "Something stinks in Jeffco DA indictment."
It's not hard to figure out what stinks about the Henderson case. He had the audacity last November to defeat incumbent Brandon Falls, who had been hand-picked for the position by former governor Bob Riley. One of Falls' duties likely was to protect Riley Inc.'s dubious activities, especially those involving son Rob "Uday" Riley, daughter Minda Riley Campbell, and son-in-law Rob Campbell -- who happens to be a partner at Bradley Arant, the Birmingham law firm that Bob Riley showered with millions of taxpayer dollars during his time as governor.
When Falls hit the exits and Henderson was set to take over, it became clear that a real DA might scrutinize the Rileys. Next thing you know, a Bradley Arant product (Strange) was indicting Henderson for perjury related to his role as guardian ad litem in a divorce case. That has kept Henderson from taking office, so far, and Moon notes that the case against him would have to improve to be thin.
Charles Todd Henderson, the county’s first Democratic DA in decades, was indicted by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office four days before taking office and blocked from becoming the new DA.
His alleged crime: Perjury.
Well, it gets even weirder. And a whole lot more complicated.
But let’s lay this thing out so you have all the facts.
The facts are as follows:
Henderson served as the guardian ad litem for a child in a divorce case. He landed that role, which basically involves making sure the craziness of the parents’ divorce doesn’t harm the child, after being asked by the mother of the child.
That woman, Yareima Akl, and Henderson knew one another – she had done work on his campaign for DA – and she requested that Henderson serve as guardian ad litem. He accepted and ended up working for approximately five months, January 2016 through May 2016.
He was removed by the judge following complaints from Akl’s soon-to-be-former husband. Those complaints centered mainly on Akl’s work on Henderson’s campaign – a fact that Henderson never denied – and what the former husband felt was a lack of therapy progress.
How weak is the case against Henderson? As Moon shows, it's thinner than cheap toilet paper:
In July of 2016, Henderson, who is single, struck up a relationship with Akl, who was on her way to being single.
In hindsight, it wasn’t the best move. But it’s also not illegal or improper.
Henderson hadn’t served as the GAL in nearly two months. He wasn’t representing anyone in the case.
And yet, this perfectly legal, no-issues-at-all act is supposed to be what Henderson lied about.
This insignificant thing is keeping a duly elected district attorney from taking office.
And it gets worse.
How worse does it get? Moon provides the answer by showing he knows a thing or two about the law -- something you almost never see from an MSM journalist. Virginia Meigs, the husband's attorney, asked Henderson under oath if he had spent the night at Yareima Akl’s apartment while she was campaigning for him. Henderson answered no, and it's unclear if that response was truthful. But this is clear: Judge Patricia Stephens called a recess, and there were no more questions about sleepovers. Here's why:
That was primarily because Stephens told Meigs that the purpose of the hearing was to determine parental custody, and she instructed Meigs to keep her questions to matters involving the child.
That’s important for another reason – a big reason.
You don’t commit perjury by simply lying under oath in court. The lies you tell have to be material to the issue at hand.
In other words, in a murder case, you lies have to be told in an effort to wrongly influence the court about whether the murder took place.
And in a child custody hearing, if Henderson lied, those lies would have to be aimed at intentionally swaying the court on the custody issue.
Meigs never asked if the child was present when Henderson stayed the night. And Stephens even said she didn’t care about the relationship between Akl and Henderson if the child wasn’t involved.
So, why is the AG’s office all wrapped up in a petty divorce case – the sort of case in which law enforcement never intervenes?
The answer to that question is clear -- at least to me. The Rileys did not want a potentially unfriendly DA in Jefferson County, and Luther Strange was willing to be their water boy by bringing a bogus case against Henderson.
|Charles Todd Henderson|
Recently appointed Senator Luther Strange, only a few months into his new job, has potentially committed two major campaign finance violations, according to Secretary of State John Merrill.
Campaign finance records show that Strange transferred campaign contributions between his US Senate campaign account and his Alabama Attorney General account, outside of the legal window. The contributions also exceeded the legal limit on account transfers.
Each of the violations could be prosecuted as felony offenses if the State Ethics Commission takes up the case and refers charges. Former Gov. Robert Bentley faced possible felony charges for a similar transfer that took place outside of the legal time frame.
Strange transferred $1,418.27 from his U.S. Senate campaign to his state campaign, exceeding the $1,000 limit. The transfer also came outside a 120-day post-election window allowed by state law. As a former AG, you'd think Strange might know a thing or two about Alabama's campaign finance laws. But you might be wrong, and such ignorance could cost Strange dearly. The Britts write:
According to Strange’s FCPA and his FEC filing, he exceeded the $1000.00 limit by $418.27. Each violation could be prosecuted as a felony. Violation of the 120-day rule is a Class B Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The $1000.00 statute is a Class C felony which carries up to 10 years behind bars. Transactions show that Strange for Senate “reimbursed” Alabamians for Luther Strange as reported on both the FCPA Report (Receipts from other sources) and his Senate report.
Asked about the transfers by The Alabama Political Reporter, Merrill responded to a request for comment.
“That is not a permissible expense and it exceeds the amount that could be given even if it were within the correct time frame,” Merill said of the transfers. “There are two violations there.”
Many Alabamians were outraged when Strange reached an apparent quid pro quo with Bentley to be appointed to a Senate seat vacated when Jeff Sessions became Trump attorney general. Wouldn't it be ironic if Big Lutha's power grab helped cause him to wind up in the slammer?