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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My nephew, Blake M. Shuler, faced a harsh lesson of American life: Driving erratically, with a chemical substance on board, is a good way to get arrested -- even if it's part of a dubious search in tiny Clever, MO

Blake M. Shuler
How did my nephew, Blake M. Shuler, manage to get in trouble with the law, in the tiny burg of Clever, Missouri (pop., 2,400; and it seems smaller than that)? The answer reminds me of perhaps the No. 1 lesson I drew from my unlawful five-month incarceration in Shelby County, Alabama.

Blake's story, however, has a twist, suggesting he might have been the target of an unlawful -- and not so clever search -- in Clever, MO. (Feel free to groan; it's a bad joke.)

What about my own lesson from life behind bars? Well, inmates have a lot of time on their hands, so they tend to sit around and ask each other, "Why are you in here?" My answer -- that I was "arrested for blogging" -- never failed to bring howls of laughter. "Oh, you're the blogger guy," a newbie invariably would say. "I've already heard about you. You're famous." I never knew I was all that funny, or famous, until I went to jail.

Time and again, inmates would answer the "Why are you in here?" question with a story that had at least two components: (1) They were driving, or riding in, a vehicle that somehow attracted the attention of cops; (2) Somebody had a "chemical substance"  in the vehicle, and cops found it when they searched the car.

That usually drew this response from me: "Well, did the cops have grounds under the Fourth Amendment to search the vehicle?" (I'm a law geek, even in jail.) That usually put looks of "Hell if I know" on the faces of assembled inmates. Their attitude tended to be: "The cops searched my vehicle, whether they had a right or not, and now I'm in here, so what difference does it make?" Good point. Even inmates -- maybe especially inmates -- understand that our rights are being eroded, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it in many jurisdictions.

What, you're going to find a lawyer to fight for your rights? Hah, don't make me laugh. Heck, I was arrested for blogging, which only violated more than 200 years of First Amendment law, and I couldn't find a lawyer to fight for me.

Anyway, Blake M. Shuler ran afoul of the law because of the two factors noted above. This is from a Clever PD (not be confused with a clever PD) incident report: (The report is embedded at the end of this post; BTW, my apologies for using the same bad joke twice.)

On 3/17/2016 at approximately 2330 hours I, Officer Thompson (DSN 1803) was patrolling south bound on State Highway P when I observed the white Toyota Avalon driving in front of my patrol car cross the yellow line of the Highway on two separate occasions. I activated my emergency lights and sounded my siren to perform a traffic stop. The Avalon stopped south of Highway 14, on Highway P.

I exited my patrol car and made contact with the driver, Blake Shuler, and the front-seat passenger, Chelsea Cox. Upon contacting the occupants of the Avalon, I smelled the odor of what, based on my training and experience, to be consumed alcohol. I informed Shuler the reason for the stop and asked if he had been drinking. He said, yes, one beer. I asked what they were doing out tonight. He said we have been downtown and I am dropping my girlfriend off. I told the occupants to stay in the vehicle and I would return.

When reading this, my first reaction was, "Ah, c'mon Blake, you can make up a better story than that. How many drivers in human history, upon being pulled over, have told cops, 'I had one beer.'" But wait, it might have been true in this case, and that raises this question: Was my nephew the victim of an unlawful search? Here's more from the incident report:

I walked to my patrol car and requested Officer Bennett (DSN 1804) to respond to my location with a preliminary breath tester. While he was en route I requested Christian County Dispatch to run a record check on Shuler and Cox. They returned with a valid license and no [warrants].

Officer Bennett arrive on scene and we approached the driver's door of the Avalon. I instructed Shuler to step out. I told him I had reason to believe he was operating a motor vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant and requested he take a preliminary breath test; he agreed to take the test. The test returned positive for the presence of alcohol. I informed Shuler of the results and advised him of Missouri implied consent. He agreed to take Standardized Field Sobriety Test. Shuler and I went to the paved area of Bumper to Bumper Auto Parks, where he performed the sobriety testing. He failed three portions of the test. I placed Shuler under arrest for suspicion of driving while impaired. I transported him to the Clever Police Station while Officer Bennett remained on scene with Cox and the vehicle.

OK, things don't look so good for Blake at this point. But here is where it gets interesting, raising constitutional questions:

We drove to City Hall, where Sergeant Stoops (DSN 1802) administered a breathalyzer test on Shuler. The test returned negative for alcohol.

Well, what do you know? My nephew wasn't drunk. And he might have been the first driver in history to tell the truth about having only one beer. This story has a happy ending, right, with Blake and his girlfriend being sent on their merry way -- Blake having been proven innocent of the "offense" for which he was arrested? Not exactly. The report continues:

I transported Shuler back to his vehicle, where Officer Bennett informed me he had located what he believed to be marijuana and paraphernalia inside the Avalon. I informed Shuler that I had 364 days to charge him with a crime for the recovered contraband. I told Schuler (sic) he was free to leave and he exited the scene.

Now, wait a minute. How does that happen? My nephew was arrested for "driving while impaired," and the official breathalyzer proved that he was not impaired -- at least not by alcohol. In fact, that test came back "negative for alcohol"; it didn't even prove he'd had one beer.

So, get this: While Blake M. Shuler was proving his innocence of the charge for which he was arrested, an officer from the Clever PD -- a different officer from the one who stopped Blake and found probable cause to arrest him -- was going through Blake's vehicle and found what he "believed" to be marijuana and paraphernalia.

Let's review what these cops did: One of them took Blake away from his vehicle, to administer a breathalyzer test that proved Blake was innocent. Meanwhile, a second cop -- who apparently never smelled the "consumed alcohol" that caused Blake's problems in the first place -- took it upon himself to search the vehicle. What happened? While one cop was learning that Blake was innocent of the charge in question, a second cop was finding evidence to hit him with another charge.

Does that sound fair to you? It doesn't to me. Does it sound like cop No. 2 sort of jumped the gun on his vehicle search? I would say he sure as hell did. Here's more from the report:

I returned to Clever City Hall and logged the recovered contraband into evidence. On 3/23/16, I issued Schuler (sic) citation # 150535206 for possession of marijuana and citation #150535207 for possession of paraphernalia. I sent him the citations via the United States Postal Service.

End of report.

What happened next? What constitutional issues might have been in play? Did anyone stand up for Blake M. Shuler's constitutional rights?

Stay tuned.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

No one should waste sympathy on Jeff Sessions because he and Donald Trump have histories of shady dealings, like two snakes who deserve each other

Jeff Sessions
Some Republicans are trying to rally around Jeff Sessions after Donald Trump directed withering criticism at his attorney general for recusing himself in the Russia investigation, opening the door for the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Support for Sessions in far-right circles perhaps has grown amid reports that Trump referred to his AG as "beleaguered" and is considering Rudy Guiliani as a replacement.

This morning, Trump even blasted his AG for having a "very weak position" on prosecuting Hillary Clinton's "crimes." CNN responded with an article saying Trump's public bullying of Sessions was embarrassing.

If you are thinking about extending your sympathy to Sessions, don't bother, says Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin -- and she's a conservative. In an op-ed piece titled "Don't Waste Your Sympathy On Sessions," Rubin says Sessions entered the Trump hornet's nest with his eyes wide open. And besides, the two are a lot alike. Writes Rubin:

Republicans are rallying around Sessions, whispering that he has been humiliated and suggesting that Trump is undeserving of such a loyal adviser. Sorry, but this is a pair who deserve one another. Sessions knew exactly what he was getting into when he teamed up with a candidate who insulted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and POWs and attacked a federal court judge on the grounds that his ethnicity prevented him from doing his job. Sessions apparently didn’t think anything was amiss when Trump invited the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. Sessions was willing to stick by him after the “Access Hollywood” tape revelation. Once in office, Sessions did not flinch when Trump impugned our intelligence services, gave code-word classified information to the Russian foreign minister and fired the FBI director. Sessions violated the broad language of his recusal to participate in James B. Comey’s firing and incorporated by reference Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s absurd, pretextual memo saying that Comey treated Clinton unfairly. Sessions isn’t motivated to quit or sound the alarm bell when Trump threatens Comey, lies about tapes or attempts to intimidate the special counsel.

Ouch! As you can tell, Rubin is not one to pull punches. She proceeds to land a few more solid blows, which tend to hit right in the solar plexus:

Sessions is the last person who deserves our sympathy. He was willing to sell his political soul to enable Trump, and he has enabled him every step of the way. Unlike Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who plays a vital role in insulating the military from Trump and literally preventing nuclear war, Sessions is not maintaining the integrity of the Justice Department. He has normalized and rationalized conduct that flies in face of the rule of law.

As Bob Bauer put it in commenting on the interview in which Trump degraded Sessions, “The President displays an ethical posture defined by a narrow and intense concern with his own interests. This is an ethics that may have served him well in business. However, it will have disastrous consequences when carried over into the exercise of his public responsibility as President—a duty to act on behalf of others.” And Sessions sees nothing is amiss? He thinks it is appropriate to lay down a “red line” with a special counsel, threatening to fire him if he (as is essential) explores Trump’s finances to determine illegality and/or ways in which Trump might have been compromised?

That sound you hear is me, grinning from ear to ear. I like this woman, Ms. Rubin. She sees Sessions for what he is -- a con artist, with the kind of misguided "moral compass" that has given Alabama one of the nation's most corrupt justice systems. Now, Sessions is on his way to doing the same thing for the entire country. From Rubin:

Sessions, precisely because he was close to Trump and the darling of the far right, at any point along the way could have taken a principled stand, refused to participate in Trump’s efforts to shut down the Russia investigation and decried efforts to bully the special counsel — who was appointed by his own department (by Rosenstein in the wake of Sessions’s recusal). No, we have zero sympathy for Sessions. He is no victim; he’s a perpetrator.

Jeff Sessions take a principled stand? He wouldn't begin to know how. His whole career has been built on one flim-flam after another. He is Alabama's gifted flim-flam man, and the whole country is getting to "enjoy" him -- hopefully, for only a little while longer. Then, perhaps, we can look forward to his indictment.

With Bunn family ties to Paul Bryant Jr., and Bryant's role in boosting UA enrollment, the Megan Rondini story gets uncomfortably close to Crimson Tide

Paul Bryant Jr.
Reporting on the Megan Rondini story, so far, has largely steered clear of the vaunted University of Alabama football program. But our research indicates the connections between the alleged rape and eventual suicide of Rondini and the UA football team might be closer than many Crimson Tide fans would find comfortable.

For one, the family of alleged rapist T.J. "Sweet Tea" Bunn Jr. was among the earliest donors to a fund-raising effort that helped launch a 14-year era of dominance for the Crimson Tide, mostly under Coach Nick Saban. Second, UA football "godfather" Paul Bryant Jr. -- the son of the late Hall of Fame coach, Bear Bryant -- was out front in an effort that led to massive enrollment gains via heavy recruitment of non-resident students, such as Megan Rondini.

In fact, the ties between the Bunn family and Bryant appear close enough to raise this question: Did the Bunns seek Bryant's help -- he holds the state's most famous name, after all -- to help quash a possible criminal case against "Sweet Tea"?

How close are the Bunns and Bryant? When UA launched in March 2002 a $100-million fund-raising campaign for athletic-facility improvements, chairman of the Crimson Tradition Fund (CTF) was Paul Bryant Jr. Among the original 27 donors who formed the foundation of the CTF were Terry and Sonny Bunn -- the heads of ST Bunn Construction and the father and uncle, respectively, of "Sweet Tea" Bunn Jr. From a press release about the CTF's founding:

The Crimson Tradition Fund Committee, chaired by Paul Bryant, Jr., is comprised of the following University of Alabama supporters: Owen W. Arnonov, Montgomery, Ala.; Randy Billingsley, Mobile, Ala.; Paul W. Bryant, Jr., Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Sonny Bunn, Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Terry Bunn, Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Angus Cooper, II, Mobile, Ala.; Gary Neill Drummond, Birmingham, Ala.; Elise Durbin, Birmingham, Ala.; Melissa Durbin, Birmingham, Ala.; William E. Ezell, Fairhope, Ala.; Wayne H. Gillis, Birmingham, Ala.; Joe Kelley, Nashville, Tenn.; John J. McMahon, Jr.; Birmingham, Ala.; Robert W. (Bud) Moore, Catherine, Ala.; Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore, Md.; Thomas L. Patterson, Birmingham, Ala.; Johnny Plott, Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Farid Rafiee, Huntsville, Ala.; Ambassador Joseph M. Rodgers, Nashville, Tenn.; Richard Scrushy, Birmingham, Ala.; Britt Sexton, Decatur, Ala.; Bart Starr, Birmingham, Ala.; Ted Taylor, Prattville, Ala.; Michael D. Thompson, Birmingham, Ala.; Stanley Verciglio, Birmingham, Ala.; Duncan Williams, Memphis, Tenn., and James W. Wilson, III, Montgomery, Ala.

One year after forming the Crimson Tradition Fund, UA hired Robert Witt as president. Bryant was on the Board of Trustees then, and chaired the committee to hire a new leader for the Tuscaloosa campus. From a 2013 article at bamainsider.com:

Before the football resurgence, the University of Alabama also began a growth period that started with the hiring of Robert Witt as president in 2003. Bryant, in his role on the board of trustees, was part of the process in luring Witt from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Megan Rondini
"The trip that I was involved in was when they took our plane and hired Dr. Witt," Bryant said. "I was president of the committee, went to Fort Worth to meet Dr. Witt and it just happened that his then-wife (Anne C. Witt) had graduated from high school with me, her parents were here in town and had both been on the faculty, and her mother was and still is a good friend of mine.

"That was a good coincidence. I don't think it had anything to do with our ability to get him."

When Witt arrived in Tuscaloosa, one of his primary objectives was clear:

Witt began an aggressive growth campaign, building new student housing and increasing enrollment. In the 10 years since Witt, who became chancellor of the UA system last March, became president, Alabama has increased enrollment from 19,600 to 34,800, added more than 300 new faculty (a 22 percent increase) and added more than 600 new staff employees (a 17 percent increase), all while seeing state funding decrease $58 million in the last five years. In the last 10 years, UA has added 5,000 new beds in on-campus housing with the construction of new dormitories funded by bond issues.

According to documents obtained from open-record requests, UA's revenues have grown from almost $600 million in 2007 to more than $782 million in 2012.

The idea of greatly enhancing enrollment, which eventually focused heavily on out-of-state students, did not originate with Witt. It came from Bryant. As the bamainsider.com article put it, "Witt's vision fit Bryant's mission":

"We had a period of time before Dr. Witt where we were losing students to other schools, to Auburn in particular," Bryant said. "I'm not talking athletics, I'm just talking about students.

"A lot of my friends' children weren't coming to Alabama, (friends) that had been to Alabama. And the one, I won't call it a charge, but the one suggestion I had for Dr. Witt that I wanted to see, when he was hired, was that my friends would send their children to Alabama, and that the leaders in the state would come from the University of Alabama.

"That's what he set out to do with recruiting, first off particularly recruiting in-state -- you have to do that first -- and then he broadened it."

That effort to "broaden" student recruitment eventually reached Austin, Texas, where it attracted a promising young student named Megan Rondini. Megan's experience at UA appears to have been mostly positive until she encountered T.J. Bunn Jr. one evening at Innisfree Irish Pub. That led to a sexual encounter that Megan insisted was not consensual, and when she sought justice, her efforts were met mostly with a stonewall from university officials and local law enforcement.

Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide
In frustration and despair, she returned to her home state and eventually took her own life. UA will go into the 2017 football season as the most powerful program in the country. But some of its most influential boosters have ties to the tragic story of Megan Rondini. Her parents have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit that likely will be pending for all of the 2017 season and beyond. That might create a shadow that could hang over Crimson Tide football for quite a while.

Could the lawsuit help uncover uncomfortable truths, much like the Jerry Sandusky scandal did at Penn State? It certainly might. The Rondini story already is closer to UA football than many fans might want to think.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Family of federal judge R. David Proctor, including son Luke Proctor and his wife, has benefited to the max from ties to perjurious Trump AG Jeff Sessions

Luke and Dana Skerry Proctor
We know that one of Judge R. David Proctor's sons worked for Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate. But Proctor's other son also has apparently benefited from the family's ties to Sessions, who now faces a criminal complaint related to false statements, about meetings with a Russian ambassador, he made during his confirmation hearings as Trump attorney general.

Sessions is accused in a citizen complaint of violating federal statutes regarding perjury, making false statements, and obstruction of justice. Most recently, Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak was caught on intelligence intercepts stating that he discussed campaign and policy issues with Sessions during the 2016 presidential race. The U.S. House and Senate, plus the FBI, are conducting "Kremlingate" investigations that could lead to even more serious criminal allegations against Sessions.

The evidence is mounting that Sessions sold out his country to get Donald Trump elected. That, of course, has profound implications, it sure could throw a wrench into the resumes of Jake and Luke Proctor. Jake Proctor is a 2016 graduate of the University of Alabama, and he worked for then-U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions in summer 2015.

Jake Proctor apparently is well on his way to becoming a political snake or whore -- or both. He posted photos to Facebook of himself at Donald Trump Inauguration events from January 2017. In roughly 180 days in office, Trump has established himself as probably the most corrupt president in U.S. history -- likely the only one to be "elected" with the help of a foreign adversary. So much for political principles. Jake Proctor's only principle, it seems, is, "I'll support whoever the perjurious Jeff Sessions supports." That path to power might crumble under young Mr. Proctor before long.

Luke Proctor, Jake's brother, is cut from the same cloth. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2013, and that is a nice achievement, to be sure. But did Luke Proctor -- like his brother, a Briarwood Christian School graduate -- deserve to be there? Well, he almost certainly gained entrance to the academy via a Congressional nomination -- and that likely came from then-U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions?

Was Luke Proctor truly among the most qualified cadets to enter West Point in 2009? Maybe he was. But his nomination likely did not come just from a home-state U.S. senator; it came from a senator who owed Proctor's father a nice favor -- in fact, several nice favors. After all, David Proctor (while in private practice) helped Sessions get black federal judge U.W. Clemon removed from a 1990s case in which Sessions (as Alabama attorney general) was a defendant.

Such judge shopping has been described in a federal-court opinion as "unethical behavior." But Proctor and Sessions did it anyway. They are tied together in racism, and the public record suggests the Proctor family has been receiving favors from Sessions ever since.

Luke Proctor, it appears, has enjoyed the fruits from a poisonous tree. This is from a newsletter for West Point parents, while he still was in school;

Cadet Luke Proctor (‘13, Birmingham) visited Chicago in March along with other cadets in the Black and Gold Leadership Forum. While in Chicago, members of the Forum had a chance to visit CNA Financial -- the seventh largest insurance company in the world, have lunch at the prestigious Chicago Club, enjoy a guided tour of the Chicago Board of Trade, meet with the CEO of the McCormack Foundation (a nonprofit organization dedicated to philanthropy), eat breakfast at the Union League Club, talk with both the CFO of Navistar International Corporation and CEO of Morris Communications, and visit with several members of the West Point Society of Chicago.

Looks like Cadet Proctor wasn't interested in visiting any social-justice or civil-rights organizations. I'm sure Chicago has a few, but those must be for people who don't have special ties to Jeff Sessions.

Our research indicates Luke Proctor currently is stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. In fact, 1st Lt. Luke Proctor (5th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery) appears as a reporter for the Fort Bliss Bugle. Gee, do we have a budding journalist on our hands? If so, Luke Proctor isn't likely to learn about the pursuit of truth from his father -- or from his political benefactor, the perjurious Jeff Sessions. And he certainly isn't going to learn about it from Sessions' boss, Donald Trump.

Luke Proctor isn't the only family member who leans toward the writing life. His wife, Dana Skerry Proctor, has worked and studied at the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP), where she has been in the M.A.T. in Teaching English program. She holds a B.A. in English and American Literature from New York University and has served editorial internships at HarperCollins and St. Martin's Press.

That's a pretty impressive resume, and such internships in Manhattan certainly do not come easily. Did Mrs. Proctor have a certain U.S. senator among her references, and did that help her land such snazzy positions?

If Jeff Sessions has not helped her yet, he almost certainly will in the future -- unless, of course, Sessions winds up in federal prison first. That might take some of the shine off any references he might give.

We sought comment from Judge Proctor for this story, and asked for copies of documents where Jeff Sessions assisted his family members. Proctor has not responded to our queries.

In written statements, Missouri deputies essentially admit I made no 911 call, but they still point to an alleged threat that apparently originated from thin air

Officer Jeremy Lynn
The Missouri deputy who claimed I had called 911 and threatened to shoot anyone trying to evict Carol and me back tracks from that statement in a written report dated 9/10/15, the day after our eviction that led to deputies breaking Carol's arm and bringing bogus criminal charges against her.

What have we learned? Officers essentially admit that I never made a 911 call, as I've stated all along. Officers still claim I made some kind of threat, and they apparently used that as an excuse to act like a SWAT team, with assault rifles aimed, pistols flying, and a team of what appeared to be 6-8 cops. But it remains unclear how they knew about any "threat," who reported it, to whom I allegedly made the threat, what evidence the person presented to cops, and why such a threat (if I made it, and I didn't) would be unlawful under Missouri's Castle Doctrine Law. It also remains unclear why officers, if the "threat" was of such concern, took no action at the time it supposedly was made, showed no signs that they took it seriously.

In an e-mail written just eight days before the deputy's written report, on September 2, 2015, my lawyer/brother David Shuler said Deputy Scott Harrison had contacted him to express concern about our upcoming eviction. This is part of David's e-mail:

[Harrison] said he posted the notice to vacate on the Cowherd property. He also said he was concerned because his dispatch contacted him and said you had called 911 and threatened to shoot anyone coming on the premises to get you out. I certainly hope that you did not really do that, but he asked me to make you aware that they take such threats seriously and that you are setting up a potentially dangerous situation.

What did Harrison say eight days later? Here it is, from an investigative report obtained during discovery in the pending "assault on a law enforcement officer" case against Carol:

Extreme caution was used while attempting to serve this eviction due to information reported to law enforcement about verbal threats made by Roger Shuler "to shoot anyone who attempts to evict him from his residence." Information was broadcasted (sic) to all city and county officers by 911 Dispatch on 08/12/2015 at 11:37 a.m. regarding this threat made by Roger Shuler.

What do we learn here:

* Information was "broadcast" via 911, but it says nothing about me making a call to 911.

* It claims someone reported my alleged "verbal threats," but it doesn't say who or how they knew. This appears to be hearsay to the nth degree, but cops used it to point an assault rifle at my head and wind up breaking Carol's arm?

* The report about the alleged threat came on 8/12/15, roughly three weeks before David Shuler sent an e-mail to me about it. Why the delay?

Harrison is not the only deputy to address the 911/threat issue in his written statements. These are the words of Officer Debi Wade, author of the Probable Cause Statement against Carol:

The next day (08-12-15) Deputy Harrison notified me that dispatch had put out information regarding officer safety information stemming from a call that they received about Roger Shuler at 4070 S. Fort. Although not verbatim, the information given to officers was that Roger Shuler told someone that he would kill any law enforcement officer that came in an attempt to evict him from his residence.

Notice two things here: (1) Now, we have 911 dispatch receiving a call "about Roger Shuler," not from Roger Shuler; (2) Wade claims I relayed a threat to "someone," but we don't know who. Officers brought enough weaponry for an eviction to put our lives at risk, based on this?

A written statement from Officer Jeremy Lynn adds new elements to the cops' story:

There was reason to believe there could be issues with the eviction due to past statements and sentiments posted by Mr. Shuler online. There was also a 911 call received in regards to Mr. Shuler, stating there would be violence with anyone who tried to evict him from his home.

What have we here? (1) Now, I'm a threat because of "sentiments" I had expressed online. Is Lynn claiming I threatened online to shoot somebody? If that's his claim, I would sure like to know when I did that; (2) The 911 call now was "received in regards to Mr. Shuler," not from Mr. Shuler. These folks can't keep their stories straight.

Finally, we have the words of Officer Christian Conrad: (The incident report, including all of the deputies' written statements, is embedded at the end of this post.)

I was informed that Shuler was anti-law enforcement and had made threats to assault or kill law enforcement if they attempted to remove him from his home.

Ah, so now, I'm sort of an anti-government terrorist, you know the kind that holes up at a cabin in Montana, while black helicopters fly overhead.

This is laughable, but Conrad isn't the only Missouri cop who portrays me as a menace to government. We will look, in an upcoming post, at others who do the same.

For now, here is the key point: Too many cops are blindingly stupid, especially about matters of the law. And that can put the public at risk. In written statements about our eviction case, cops give the impression that "Hey, we taped an eviction notice from the landlord or his lawyer on your door, so therefore it's valid, and you'd better get prepared to leave." They seem to have no idea that an eviction is a legal process, that it must be authorized by the court.  A landlord or his lawyer cannot unilaterally evict anybody.

In our case, we've seen no evidence of a valid court order, signed by a judge, authorizing our eviction. In fact, the docket plainly shows the judge issued an interlocutory judgment, meaning it was not final, with additional issues, including our breach of contract counterclaim, set for hearing on Oct. 1, 2015. That suggests there could not be a valid court order, signed by a judge, because she had issued no final ruling in the case.

Officer Scott Harrison
Here is a critical point that seems beyond the grasp of law enforcement: If a tenant "reasonably believes" an eviction is unlawful -- and cops are about to invade his home with no grounds for doing so -- he has a right under Missouri's Castle Doctrine Law to resist, including use of deadly force. In our case, we knew of at least four grounds upon which an eviction would have been illegal, so we had every right to resist via force.

In essence, law enforcement was getting its panties bunched over an alleged "threat" to take LAWFUL action. Under such circumstances, what law enforcement saw as a "threat" was more like a "vow" -- to respond lawfully if cops insisted on acting unlawfully.

Experience has taught us that many cops are too stupid to think through stuff like this. Perhaps they have the brain power to patrol beats, and the brightest among them might be capable of investigating crimes that already have happened. But to be involved with a delicate civil matter, like an eviction . . . states have delegated that authority to sheriffs, but there is no way deputies or their bosses should be involved. They either aren't smart enough to grasp the law, or they are too corrupt to apply the law correctly -- and that can cause innocent civilians to be hurt; we've been hurt, and Carol has a scar of 12 inches or more on her left arm to prove it.

How dense can cops be? We have more evidence coming up next.

(To be continued)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Intelligence intercepts show Jeff Sessions discussed campaign issues with Russians during 2016 race, indicating he lied to Senate and on security clearance

Sergey Kislyak and Jeff Sessions
(From cnn.com)
A Russian ambassador told his superiors that he discussed campaign and policy issues with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, according to a report this evening from The Washington Post. Sergey Kislyak's statements, caught on intelligence intercepts, run contrary to public statements from Sessions, the Trump attorney general and former U.S. Senator from Alabama.

The report adds to the already substantial evidence that Sessions lied during his confirmation hearings before Congress and on his security-clearance application. CNN and The Hill are among major news outlets to pick up on the report this evening.

It also adds to our numerous posts about Sessions' under-handed actions while serving as U.S. attorney and attorney general in Alabama, long before he leaped onto the international stage during the Trump campaign. We've reported extensively on (1) Sessions' use of political prosecutions against Democrats in the Southern District of Alabama; (2) His hiring of a federal judge's nephew to force the judge's recusal, in a case where Session's AG office was accused of gross prosecutorial misconduct; current U.S. Judge R. David Proctor (Northern District of Alabama) assisted in that blatant form of "judge shopping," which has been described by one circuit court as a "breach of ethics"; (3) Sessions' persistent support of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor, including pushing Trump to appoint Pryor to the U.S. Supreme Court, even though Pryor has nude photographs in his background that appeared at the gay-porn Web site badpuppy.com in the 1990s -- and he almost certainly lied about it during his own confirmation process; (4) Reports from a former Alabama law-enforcement official that Sessions was caught on surveillance making frequent late-night visits to Pryor's residence in Montgomery, suggesting the two had a homosexual relationship.

As a journalist and resident of Alabama for 35-plus years, I know of many reports that suggest Sessions has virtually no moral compass, so the latest evidence that he lied to Congress and on security-related documents is a surprise only because it is so brazen and international in scope. From the WaPo report:

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. senator that he met with Kislyak.

The full implications of the intercept reports is difficult to gauge this evening. But it certainly suggests that America's top law-enforcement officer is a liar of monstrous proportions -- and he is willing to lie about his interactions with representatives for a foreign adversary. From CNN:

Sessions originally never disclosed any interactions he had with Kislyak, but a meeting first came to light in March when the Post reported that he met with Kislyak at an event during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Sessions met with Kislyak for a second time during the presidential campaign, this time in his Senate office in Washington. This meeting, in September, also wasn't publicly known until the Post reported about it in March.

Sessions did not disclose either meeting when he applied for his security clearance. He also did not mention it when he was asked about contact with Russians during his Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year. Sessions denied any campaign-related meetings with Russians at the confirmation hearings, saying, "I did not have communications with the Russians."

That last statement sounds more and more like Bill Clinton's famous claim: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky." Republicans for years have howled about the Clinton statement, which was proven to be false. They might not find much amusing in the deepening Sessions quagmire. From The Hill:

One current U.S. intelligence official told the Post that Sessions' remarks about his contacts with Kislyak were “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.”

Kislyak, officials told the Post, has a reputation for accurately describing his conversations with U.S. officials to his superiors in Moscow.

The latest news on Sessions is profoundly important, a source tells Legal Schnauzer. "At this point, America's number one law enforcement official is not credible or trustworthy. What does that say about America? The Trump administration?" But it goes beyond that, says our source:

Here's the one link I hope is not missed. And that is, I think that one of the reasons Trump appointed Sessions to be the Attorney General of the United States is his participation in pre-election campaign efforts to get Trump elected which, for Sessions, included his willingness to have contacts with Russian agents and to act in complicity with those agents in working to get Trump elected and to defeat Mrs. Clinton.

Trump rewarded Sessions for his "loyalty" and willingness to use Session's connections with Russians to get Trump elected and Clinton defeated.

Trump rewarded Sessions for his complicity with the Russians. Now that Trump sees that Sessions is going down, he shuns Sessions.

Robert Mueller expands Trump investigation, causing GOPers to squawk as they conveniently forget Ken Starr's ever-widening probe of Bill Clinton in the 1990s

Donald Trump and Robert Mueller
(From itv.com)
The Trump White House, and a number of its conservative backers, blew a collective fuse yesterday, with reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expanding his investigation to include a look at Trump family finances. It's unclear where the issue is headed, but it certainly unleashed a wave of Republican hypocrisy.

According to a report at bloomberg.com, Mueller is examining a wide range of business transactions involving Trump and his associates. From Bloomberg:

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Trump, summoning his inner Don Corleone, issued a warning that Mueller would be wise to avoid scrutiny of family finances.  From thehill.com:

President Trump warned special counsel Robert Mueller from investigating his family’s finances beyond the scope of the probe into ties between his administration and Russia in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday.

“I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia,” Trump told the Times.

Trump during the interview said he wasn’t ruling out firing Mueller as special counsel on the probe into Russian meddling in the presidential election.

He did not say that he would order the Justice Department to fire Mueller or under what circumstances he would fire him, but he indicated Mueller investigating his family's finances would cross a line.

It's not like there isn't a mountain of evidence pointing to shady financial dealings involving Trump, as splendidly reported by Craig Unger in a New Republic piece titled "Trump's Russian Laundromat." Writes Unger:

A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics.

Where does hypocrisy enter the picture? Republicans who want to rein in the Mueller investigation of Trump, were more than happy when Ken Starr ran wild with his investigation of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. From a recent CNN report, comparing the Starr and Mueller probes:

Ken Starr had been appointed by a three-person panel of judges in 1994 to investigate a scandal involving land development deals in Arkansas from the time before Clinton became president.

Starr, a conservative Republican who had served as Solicitor General of the United States, took over from Robert Fiske and proved to be an aggressive prosecutor. Over time, Starr broadened the scope of the investigation to include a number of issues, including accusations that had been brought against the President about sexual harassment. In the course of the investigation, Starr's team asked President Clinton about whether he had an affair with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky who was about half his age. Clinton, seeking to protect himself and his marriage, lied under oath. He also lied to the nation when he said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky."

The most damaging information against Clinton came after Starr had expanded his investigation multiple times, to include issues that went way beyond the probe's original focus -- the Whitewater land deals and the death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster.

As the CNN report notes, Whitewater happened years before Clinton became president. In fact, Bill Clinton was not even governor of Arkansas when the Whitewater deal commenced. But Republicans, at the time, gave "thumbs up" to a probe that had nothing to do with Clinton's role as president, or even his campaign for president. And they were fine when Starr expanded the probe to include issues that were far removed from Whitewater and Vince Foster.

So try to wrap your head around the hypocrisy present in this press release yesterday from a group called Americans For Limited Government:

July 20, 2017, Fairfax, Va.—Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement urging the scope of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to be limited:

“Robert Mueller was originally tasked to investigate Russia’s supposed interference in the 2016 U.S. election campaign. His appointment was directly tied to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ original recusal on all matters related to the 2016 campaign. The Attorney General’s recusal does not include reported ongoing investigations conducted by the Department of Justice unrelated to the election. As a result, Attorney General Sessions should bind the Special Counsel to only pursuing matters for which Sessions has recused himself from overseeing as the nation’s top cop. If Robert Mueller has not found any criminal matters to investigate pursuant to Russian interference in the election, then his tenure as special counsel should end.”

Who in the hell is Rick Manning? His bio indicates he once served in the George W. Bush administration and was an NRA lobbyist for nine years. I don't know where Rick Manning was during the Whitewater probe, but it's hard to imagine him having any problems with Ken Starr's activities going way beyond their original focus.

One difference between the Starr and Mueller investigations should be noted: Starr was an independent counsel, and Mueller is a special counsel. The differences between the two roles is explained in this recent article by Frank Bowman at Slate.

Still, Trump's inflammatory words about Mueller have raised concerns, even among those on the right, who are knowledgeable about government ethics. From an article at thehill.com:

The former White House ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush on Thursday said that Congress needed to make it clear to President Trump that firing special counsel Robert Mueller would mean his impeachment.

In a Twitter post Thursday evening, Richard Painter, who also serves as vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said that if Trump fires Mueller, it should be "bye-bye" Trump or "bye-bye" Congress.

"Congress must make it very clear: Bye-bye Mueller, bye-bye Trump. Otherwise bye-bye Congress 2018. Americans are fed up," Painter tweeted Thursday.

Painter was not the only GOPer to voice concerns about Trump:

Others besides Painter warned Trump not to fire Mueller on Thursday. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said firing the former FBI director would be a "mistake."

“It would be a mistake to fire Bob Mueller," Rubio told reporters Thursday.

Rubio, of course, is the guy who raised the supposed correlation between hand size and penis size during the Republican presidential primaries of 2016. When Rubio becomes a voice of maturity and reason, Trump likely is on shaky ground.

The notion of Republicans griping about an expansion of Robert Mueller's Trump investigation should be seen as a joke -- sort of like Marco Rubio's presidential campaign. But now it seems many GOPers are so encrusted with dishonesty and hypocrisy that they can't even get the joke.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Carol arrived for a court appearance yesterday in Springfield, MO, only to learn cops and prosecutors are dragging their feet on turning over discovery

Carol Tovich Shuler
My wife, Carol, had a court appearance yesterday and arrived to find -- get this -- the prosecutors and cops who brought the bogus "assault" case against her are stonewalling on discovery.

Let's allow that to settle in for a moment. Prosecutors and cops deal every work day with allegedly criminal matters. They know discovery is the process where both sides gather evidence -- via interrogatories, depositions, requests for production of documents -- to make their cases. For a defendant, like Carol, it's a critical component to proving her innocence, avoiding jail time, and restoring her good name.

Now, let's allow this to percolate a little more. Prosecutors and cops waited until the last possible day to beat the one-year statute of limitations and bring trespass and "assault on a law enforcement officer" charges against Carol, related to our unlawful eviction on September 9, 2015, in Greene County, Missouri. (Judge Margaret Holden Palmietto already has dismissed the trespass claim.) They waited another four months-plus to seek Carol's arrest -- and that came only after they knowingly had sent a summons to the wrong address, causing Carol to be hit with a failure-to-appear charge.

In short, the "legal professionals" had 16 months to get their case prepared and have evidence ready -- knowing it likely would be requested in discovery -- and they either don't have it or are griping about turning it over. Here is a message for Nicholas Jain, the chief prosecutor in Carol's case, and his boss, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson: If your case is so weak that you don't want to turn over discoverable information, don't bring it.

Defendants once were not entitled to much discovery for criminal cases. That changed in 1963 with a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case styled Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. (1963), In Alabama, the right of defendants to discovery is spelled out in Rule 16, Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure (ARCP). The key passage is in the comments to Rule 16:

Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), requires the state to disclose any information it has which is favorable to the defendant. Requiring the disclosure of evidence in the state’s possession which is material to the preparation of a defense is an extension of this requirement of due process.

Since the defendant may not know exactly what evidence the prosecution has, it would be difficult to know whether it would be material to his defense. The state is, therefore, required to disclose exculpatory evidence.

Missouri law is even more straightforward, as found at Rule 25.04, Missouri Supreme Court Rules. It states, in part:

If the court finds the request to be reasonable, the court shall order the state to disclose to the defendant that material and information requested which is found by the court to be relevant and material to the defendant's case.

Public Defender Patty Poe, who is representing Carol, told us yesterday that she had filed discovery requests with Nicholas Jain, and he had responded to some requests, while objecting to others -- claiming we were not entitled to certain information. Poe works dozens of cases like this at a time, and she seems to know Carol is entitled to a broad range of information, anything that would be material to her defense.

Poe intends to file a Motion to Compel, designed to force Jain to turn over discoverable information. A hearing is set on that motion for August 16. (See case.net, No. 1631-CRO7731.) If Judge Palmietto orders information be produced, and Jail fails to comply, that could be grounds for sanctions, including dismissal of the case against Carol, Poe said.

If the case is tossed in the trash (where it belongs) on those grounds, we would be fine with that. It should be dismissed on multiple other grounds, under Missouri's Castle Doctrine Law, plus violations of Carol's constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment (unlawful search and seizure) and Sixth Amendment (failure to allow Carol to confront her accuser). Police actions in our eviction represent a Forcible Entry and Detainer under Missour law, and the case against Carol should be dismissed on those grounds, too.

What are we seeking in discovery, and what are the likely basis for Jain's objections? We will examine that question in an upcoming post.

For now, our primary discovery requests, and the prosecution's responses, are embedded below.

Donald Trump nominated a corrupt attorney general in Alabama's Jeff Sessions, but it turns out that Sessions is not corrupt enough for Trump's tastes

Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump
(From washingtonpost.com)
Donald Trump nominated one of the most corrupt individuals in public life to be U.S. attorney general, but we now learn that Jeff Sessions is not corrupt enough to suit Trump.

In an administration that has been filled with job-dropping moments, this one might have moved to the top of the list. From a CNN report, based on a Trump interview with The New York Times:

President Donald Trump said in an interview published Wednesday that he would not have chosen Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general had he known Sessions would recuse himself over matters related to the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump's remarks, in a 50-minute interview with The New York Times, represent an extraordinary rebuke from the President toward the nation's top law enforcement official who happens to be one of his earliest political allies.

"Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the President," Trump said, referring to himself. "How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, 'Thanks, Jeff, but I'm not going to take you.' It's extremely unfair -- and that's a mild word -- to the President."

We know Sessions has no problem taking corrupt actions. As U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, he made it a practice to prosecute political opponents. As Alabama attorney general, Sessions hired the nephew of a black federal judge to force the judge's recusal in a case where the AG's office was accused of gross prosecutorial misconduct. That move adds to Sessions' already dubious record on matters of race, and a federal court has described the hiring of an attorney simply to force a judge's recusal  as a "breach of ethics."

Trump now is having "buyer's remorse" about Sessions. It seems Trump didn't want an attorney general who merely was corrupt -- he wanted one who was really corrupt, one who would take unlawful steps to protect a crime-infested administration.

Has Trump forgotten that Sessions got caught lying in his confirmation hearings about meetings with Russian officials? Has Trump forgotten that Sessions' false answer to a question from U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) pretty much forced the AG to recuse himself from all matters connected to various investigations of Trump's ties to Russia? No, Trump has not forgotten; but he views the Sessions quagmire in his usual twisted, self-interested way. From CNN:

Before Trump had a lock on the Republican nomination last year, Sessions became the first sitting senator to back the real estate mogul's presidential bid.

But several months into the job, Trump's warm feelings for Sessions have clearly cooled. In the interview, Trump scolded Sessions for telling the Senate judiciary committee that he had not met with any Russians during the campaign. It was later revealed he had met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, at least two times.

Sessions later amended his testimony.

"Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers," the President said. "He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren't."

To have Donald Trump scold you for telling lies? That makes the mind swirl.

Trump's statements reveal a level of narcissism and dishonesty that is almost painful to contemplate. What do his statements suggest?

(1) That Trump knew an investigation was coming of his campaign's interactions with Russian interests;

(2) That Trump knew such an investigation could spell big trouble, so he needed someone to protect him and his inner circle;

(3) That Trump expected the AG to serve as his protector, not as "the people's lawyer."

(4) That Trump has no clue about the independence of the Department of Justice, that the DOJ is not supposed to take instructions from the White House on the handling of investigations or prosecutions.

Item No. 4 is particularly profound. In November 2016, the United States "elected" a man of commerce to be president, supposedly to "run the country like a business." We now are learning that such an outcome presents significant danger, especially when the businessman has no idea how government is supposed to work. From a February 2017 article on the subject at lawfareblog.com:

After Watergate, Jimmy Carter campaigned on the promise to establish "as far as constitutionally possible, an independent Department of Justice,” and in 1978 his attorney general, Griffin Bell, sought to make good on that pledge by instituting procedures to insulate the Justice Department from political pressures. But what became the customary rules governing interaction between the White House and Justice were relaxed most recently under the George W. Bush administration, in a set of episodes the administration came to regret. As recounted by Politico in January, Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, expanded the number of White House officials permitted to contact the Justice Department on non-national security members from four to 417; his second attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, further increased the number to 895 (according to findings by Senate Judiciary Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse, a former U.S. attorney). These changes ended in scandal: among other things, under Gonzalez, seven U.S. attorney generals were abruptly fired in 2006 for political reasons that, according to a subsequent report by the Justice Department Inspector General, "raised doubts about the integrity of Department prosecution decisions." Michael Mukasey reinstituted more traditional guidelines in 2007, and Eric Holder replaced them with his own substantively similar variant in 2009.

The heart of the [Holder] memo is a set of prescriptions limiting the Justice Department’s communications with the White House and Congress regarding pending or potential criminal or civil investigations or cases. The Department will advise the President on such investigations or cases “when—but only when—it is important for the performance of the President's duties and appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.”

The lawfareblog.com author apparently could see that Trump's AG had a tough future ahead of him:

All of this suggests it may not be not enough for Attorney General Sessions to keep the 2009 policy guidance in place, or to issue his own—just as it wasn’t enough for him to assert at his confirmation hearings, as any Justice Department nominee must, that he intends to head an independent department capable of standing up to the President. If the White House persists in interfering with Justice Department strategy in general or investigations in particular, to maintain outside confidence in the Justice Department’s impartiality, it may be on Sessions to publicly—and as needed, repeatedly—reaffirm his Department’s continuing commitment to remaining “impartial and insulated from political influence.”

Jeff Sessions had every reason to know Trump is a blowhard -- and every reason to suspect Trump is a crook, especially when it comes to Russia. There was ample evidence of both, before and during the 2016 campaign. Since his lies to Congress were unveiled, Sessions probably has gone into "Dear God, please keep me out of prison" mode. In the meantime, Sessions is left to deal with a president who appears to be both ignorant and emotionally unhinged.

In short, Jeff Sessions is in a mess. But it's largely a mess of his own making.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Severed Penis Case" shows bogus lawsuits don't come just from scum like Bill Swatek; "reputable" lawyers, like Rob Riley and Jessica Garrison, bring them, too

Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange
The Case of the Severed Penis has taught us a legal principle that, on paper, should be of bedrock importance. In reality, lawyers of all stripes ignore the principle, and we've seen little sign that the Alabama State Bar makes it a priority to discipline those who violate it.

The principle is this: A lawyer should investigate a client's claims, making sure there is "good cause" to support them, before filing a complaint. A lawyer never should bring a lawsuit he knows is baseless.

What is the official wording of this principle. It can be found at Rule 3.1 Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct, which reads, in part:

In his representation of a client, a lawyer shall not file a suit, assert a position, conduct a defense, delay a trial, or take other action on behalf of the lawyer's client when the lawyer knows or when it is obvious that such action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another.

That sounds like a relatively simple rule to follow. But my wife, Carol, and I have been the targets of multiple lawsuits that were not based in truth and had no purpose but to maliciously injure us. In fact, they have maliciously injured us, costing us our home of 25 years in Birmingham, causing me to be unlawfully incarcerated for five months in Shelby County, causing us to be unlawfully evicted in Missouri (leading Carol to have her arm shattered by rogue cops and to be falsely arrested and imprisoned twice). I've reported on multiple other Alabama residents who have been the targets of bogus claims.

Pelham, Alabama, lawyer Bill Swatek was the first lawyer to target Carol and me, bringing a malicious-prosecution claim on behalf of Mike McGarity, our criminally inclined neighbor who had admitted to trespass, as charged, in a criminal proceeding. Perhaps that should not be a surprise, given that Swatek has been disciplined at least three times by the Alabama State Bar, including a suspension of his license for lying about hiding a tape recorder to capture "private" discussions of opposing counsel during depositions. That led to a criminal charge of perjury, for which Swatek was acquitted, even though tape-recorded evidence presented at trial showed he was guilty as charged.

Swatek is a proven dirt bag and a solo practitioner, so the public pretty much should expect sleazy acts from him. But Carol and I have been targeted for baseless lawsuits by attorneys who have been connected to sizable law firms, the type of practitioner one would expect to know better. We are talking about lawyers who are well known, attached to politicians who have held statewide office. Specifically, we are talking about Rob Riley (son of former Gov. Bob Riley), who now has his own Riley Jackson firm and used to work for Hare Wynn Newell and Newton. We're also talking about
Jessica Medeiros Garrison (one-time campaign manager and mistress for U.S. Sen. Luther Strange), who until May 2017, worked for Balch and Bingham.

I reported here at Legal Schnauzer that Rob Riley had an extramarital affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke, and Garrison had an extramarital affair with Strange. Both Rob Riley and Garrison sued me for defamation, but neither even attempted to prove my reporting was false. That's because my reporting was not false, and we have filed pending federal lawsuits -- Shuler v. Duke, et al and Shuler v. Garrison, et al -- that are designed to show that.

Did Riley or Garrison believe they had a legitimate defamation case against me? Their own actions suggest the answer is no. Let's look first at the Riley case; it's clear his goal was to have me falsely arrested and incarcerated, and his complaint had nothing to do with defamation:

* The normal remedy in a defamation case, by law, is to seek money damages. But Riley did not seek money damages, and none were issued in the case. Instead, Riley sought an improper equitable remedy -- a preliminary injunction that has been prohibited under more than 200 years of First Amendment law. The injunction was a set-up to cause my unlawful arrest -- a kidnapping, really, given that no warrant ever has appeared.

Rob and Bob Riley
* Under long-standing First Amendment law, a defamation claim must be determined at a jury trial. That's because the First Amendment holds an exalted place in American law, and the notion that a judge could act as a one-man censor at a bench trial is considered abhorrent.

* Central to a jury trial, of course, is discovery, which establishes the facts upon which the case is to be argued. Riley did not seek a trial, a jury trial, or discovery. Why is that? I can think of only one reason: He wasn't interested in proving defamation because he knew my reporting about his affair with Liberty Duke was not false. Discovery -- producing e-mails, text messages, phone records, etc. -- would have proven my reporting was on target. Rob Riley wanted no part of that process.

* Judge Claud Neilson, brought out of retirement to hear the case by special assignment, acted as a one-man censor -- declaring my reporting defamatory, even though he had no facts, via discovery, to support that finding. And it was a determination that only a jury, not a judge, could make. In fact, I had one hearing before Neilson, but there never was anything approaching a trial in the case.

* Neilson imposed monetary sanctions against me, acting pro se, in the amount of about $33,000. But Alabama law is clear that a self-represented party cannot be hit with sanctions or attorney fees. They have not, and will not be paid, because they are unlawful. Still, Liberty Duke used her portion of the bogus sanctions to place a lien on our Birmingham home. If Duke and her lawyer, Christina Crow, don't know that monetary sanctions cannot be imposed against a self-represented party . . . well, Liberty Duke should stay out of courtrooms and Ms. Crow should find another profession. In essence, Liberty Duke stole more than $7,000 of excess foreclosure funds that lawfully belonged to Carol and me. So far, Duke has gotten away with the theft, but we intend to make sure that changes. That is one of many issues raised in our pending federal lawsuit. Anyone thinking of doing business with Liberty Duke in her role as a lobbyist should know that we have indisputable facts that show she is a thief -- and that should cause a few second thoughts.

* Liberty Duke used her portion of the unlawful sanctions to have a bogus lien placed on our property. Duke and her lawyer, Christina Crow of Union Springs, had to know this was contrary to law. But did it serve to harass and maliciously injure Carol and me? It sure did -- cheating us out of more than $7,000 -- and inflicting such injury was the whole point of the Riley/Duke lawsuit.

What about the Garrison case? Well, it's every bit as bad:

* Garrison did not seek a jury trial -- at least not in her initial filing. In my response, I demanded a jury trial -- and Garrison lawyer Bill Baxley promptly responded with a motion that more or less said, "Oh yeah, we want a jury trial, too." The truth? Garrison, like Riley, never intended to have a trial (jury or otherwise), suggesting she knew my reporting was accurate.

* Evidence indicates Garrison was a key figure in our wrongful foreclosure, which forced us out of state (to Missouri), where I could not defend myself against her defamation claim, which wound up with a $3.5-million default judgment. That judgment is void, as a matter of law, because I never received notice of the default-judgment application or hearing. Garrison must like to catch fish in a barrel because she clearly likes to bring a bogus lawsuit and then help ensure the target can't defend himself. That kind of chicanery must give her a sense of "power." By the way, Riley's lawsuit that caused me to be unlawfully incarcerated for five months also played a key role in the loss of our home, suggesting that he and Garrison worked together on their little courtroom scams.

* Garrison likely never had any intention of having her case tried, but she did try it in the press. She arranged for an "as told to" article in Marie Claire, a women's fashion magazine published by Hearst Corp. The article only proved that Garrison can't keep her facts straight and defamed me in at least three ways: (1) Falsely claiming I had reported that Luther Strange was the biological father of Garrison's child; (2) Falsely claiming I had stalked Garrison; (3) Falsely claiming there was a trial in her underlying defamation case.

* Former State Rep. Lowell Barron has stated in a radio interview with Marcus Echols that Strange and Garrison had an extramarital affair and said it compromised Strange so badly that he could not do his job -- Alabama attorney general, at the time.

* Barron also shined light on why Garrison and Strange helped launch our wrongful foreclosure, forcing us out of state and making sure I would not receive notice of key events in the case. Strange tried to prosecute Barron for alleged violations of the state ethics law, but that changed when Barron filed a motion seeking to have Strange give testimony under oath. The judge had not ruled on the motion, but in the interim, Strange dropped the case. Said Barron, from an earlier post:

Luther Strange is so compromised that he cannot go after the governor. What happened in my case . . . my attorney asked the judge to allow us to get Luther Strange to testify in my case. The judge left that open and didn't rule on it. Once the judge didn't rule on whether we could put Luther Strange on the stand, my case went away.

Luther Strange cannot stand to be deposed or be put on the stand because his shenanigans with Ms. Garrison would come out in the open. This whole bunch is compromised. You can't have clean government when you are dirty.

* Has Jessica Garrison filed a defamation case against Lowell Barron? Nope. Why? Probably because she knows his statement is true, and truth is an absolute defense to a defamation case. Instead, Garrison made her social-media profile mostly go dark after a report that Strange was tied to the ongoing Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal. Why would Jessica Garrison go underground right now? Hmmm . . .

The Case of the Severed Penis teaches us that the Alabama State Bar is more likely to go after solo practitioners, or lawyers from small firms, while letting the big fish go free. But our experience shows that lawyers with histories of working at large firms -- like Rob Riley and Jessica Garrison -- can be every bit as dirty as the smaller guys.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Michael E. Stephens, one of the wealthiest and best-known subjects of our Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs reporting, has died at the age of 73

Michael E. Stephens
A subject of our reporting on the Ashley Madison scandal has died. To our knowledge, that's a first here at Legal Schnauzer.

Of the 36 individuals we have covered in our Ashley Madison (AM) series, we believe businessman Michael E. Stephens is the first to have died. We have focused on prominent corporate and professional types who also were paying customers at the notorious Canada-based Web site that promotes extramarital affairs.

We don't have a net worth for each of our AM subjects, but if we did, Stephens probably would rank near the top. He was a big-time business figure in Alabama for decades before spending his later years in Naples, Florida.

Stephens died on July 1 at age 73. No, his obituary did not mention his activities on Ashley Madison. But it did indicate that he had found happiness in his personal life -- and we hope that was the case.

Without question, Stephens had a golden touch as a businessman. Our original AM-related post about him, published on July 20, 2016, noted that he was the man behind one of the most expensive homes in Alabama. From that post:

Michael E. Stephens, former executive director of Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital and founder of the Lakeshore Foundation, owns (or did own) the Resting S Ranch on Cahaba Valley Road (Highway 119) in North Shelby County. The 12,300-square-foot main house sits on 35 acres and is valued at $4.56 million. The entire 82-acre ranch had a list price of $11.65 million in 2011. The property has been on the market, but it's not clear from public records if it has sold.

Ironically, my wife, Carol, and I used to live just off Highway 119, too, about four miles east of Mr. Stephens' property, until corrupt political forces in Alabama swiped our home of 25 years out from under us, via a wrongful foreclosure. The houses in our neighborhood, Broken Bow South, were not quite as extravagant as Mr. Stephens' domicile (to put it mildly), but our house there fit us just right, we invested a lot of financial and sweat equity in it, we loved it, and to say we miss it would be putting it mildly.

We drove by Mr. Stephens' Resting S Ranch many times, although my memory is that you barely could catch a glimpse of the main house, which is way off the highway.

Resting S Ranch
Mr. Stephens apparently had an appreciation for finer things, and while our house was of modest size and scope, we worked our butts off to keep it looking nice -- and he probably would have understood how much we treasured it. It's the only house we ever owned and the only one we ever have wanted to own.

It still burns me that our house had begun to show wear and tear, thanks to the political forces connected to former Gov. Bob Riley and his son, Rob "Uday" Riley, who cheated me (UAB) and Carol (Infinity Insurance) out of our jobs. One of my No. 1 goals in life is to get our house back and make sure the SOBs who stole it from us are held accountable.

As for Michael E. Stephens, his life was not just about dollars and cents. There was an inspirational component to it, also. From his obituary:

Born in Selma, Alabama, Mr. Stephens moved to Birmingham in 1946. In 1970 he suffered a spinal cord injury from a diving accident. Although at the time he had already begun a successful career in the publishing industry, that injury, and the grueling recovery process, changed the focus of Stephens's life and ultimately had a profound impact on his personal, professional, civic and philanthropic activities. After intensive rehabilitation during which he learned to walk again, he returned to the University of Montevallo in 1973 to complete a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business. He then went on to earn a Masters of Science Degree from the School of Health Professions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Mr. Stephens held a number of business interests, from publishing to banking, but he left his real mark on rehabilitation medicine. From his obituary:

Mr. Stephens became executive director of Lakeshore Hospital in 1975 when it was still a small rehabilitation facility. Based on his experience during rehabilitation he was determined to eliminate the fragmentation of services that often hampered the recovery of people with physical disabilities. During the next decade, he transformed Lakeshore Hospital into what Forbes magazine called "… a model laboratory for his ideas about rehabilitation." It was his creation of a disabled sports program at Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital which ultimately developed into the founding of Lakeshore Foundation in 1984. Mr. Stephens' progress with Lakeshore Hospital led to his founding of ReLife in 1986. As president and CEO, he guided the organization to national prominence as an effective, comprehensive rehabilitation system. At the time that ReLife merged with HealthSouth Corporation in 1994 the company had 46 rehabilitation facilities located in 12 states. Mr. Stephens' passion, the Lakeshore Foundation, is internationally known as a model organization for providing sports, recreation, fitness and research programs for those with physical disabilities. Because of this success, it was designated as an official US Olympic and Paralympic training site.

I don't think I ever met Mr. Stephens, and I certainly did not run in his financial circle, but our social circles intersected a bit. That's because, in my journalism career, I covered UAB Blazer athletics in various capacities from 1978 to 2008 and became friends with the late athletics director and Hall of Fame coach Gene Bartow. I recall that Coach Bartow mentioned Mr. Stephens several times, knew that he loved horses, and was thankful that Mr. Stephens had been a financial supporter of UAB athletics.

Gene Bartow was one of my favorite people on earth, so if he thought highly of Michael E. Stephens, I tended to think Mr. Stephens must be a pretty good guy, too.

As for Mr. Stephens' Ashley Madison activities, I tend to cut him slack there. I have no idea why he signed up a site that he probably knew was not worth his time. Maybe he just got bored one night -- rich people get bored, too, don't they? -- and put his name on an account that he figured would never see the light of day. On the personal front, we learn this about Mr. Stephens from his obit:

For many, Mike Stephens, became the role model, encourager, and inspiration for significant life changes. His wife, Allison, who he often called "My Angel", gave him a music box one year for his birthday. The music box played "The Wind Beneath My Wings"; on the inside, the inscription read "Mike, your life, your love and your friendship are special gifts, treasured by me and countless others. Thank you for providing the 'wind.' " Following his death, she said, "now Mike will forever be My Angel."

Life was not always a breeze for Mike Stephens. In addition to his spinal-cord injury, he was on the board of Superior Bank, which went through major turbulence in the 2000s and was closed by the FDIC in 2011. It became the first billion-dollar bank failure of 2011. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2016 filed fraud charges against 11 former executives of Superior Bank.

What role, if any, did Mike Stephens play in the failure of Superior Bank? That is not clear from published reports. This is from an article about his re-election to a one-year term on the board in 2006. It's not clear if Stephens was involved with the bank when it went into a nosedive:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The Banc Corporation (Nasdaq: TBNC) announced today at its annual meeting that its shareholders have approved the change of its corporate name to Superior Bancorp and that it will begin trading under the NASDAQ symbol SUPR on May 19, 2006. In addition, Stan Bailey, Roger Barker, K. Earl Durden, Rick Gardner, Thomas Jernigan, Jr., James Mailon Kent, James M. Link, Barry Morton, Robert R. Parrish, Jr., Marvin Scott, Michael E. Stephens, James A. Taylor and James C. White, Sr. were re-elected to one year terms on Superior Bancorp's Board of Directors."

Public records indicate Stephens went through at least two divorces, but he seems to have found contentment in his later years.

In the end, Mike Stephens did a lot of good on this planet, and he touched a lot of people. Maybe that's because he came across as human -- the kind of guy who could make mistakes, like signing up for Ashley Madison, but bounce back from them. We'd say his was a life well lived.