Thursday, August 17, 2017

How long has the Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal been brewing, and how big a threat could it pose for Luther Strange and his elitist supporters?


Birmingham Superfund cleanup
(From al.com)
Luther Strange made it into a runoff with Roy Moore in Tuesday's GOP primary for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama. That might seem like a positive for Strange, but it could heat up a spotlight that has been shining for some time on his mounting ethical baggage.

The No. 1 sign of that baggage is the deal Strange made with Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley, the state's ousted and disgraced governor who temporarily appointed Strange to Jeff Sessions' seat, apparently in exchange for soft treatment from the Strange attorney general's office on an investigation into Bentley's sex- and finance-related misadventures.

But the No. 2 sign of ethical baggage might prove to be even more troublesome for Big Lutha, whether he gets past Roy Moore or not. That would involve Strange's apparent ties to the Superfund scandal on Birmingham's Northside. Federal investigators reportedly are sniffing in several directions, including Strange's, and the case already has yielded one indictment and guilty plea.

If I have my way, Strange also will be facing deposition questions from me or my attorneys in two pending federal lawsuits -- "The Jail Case" and "The House Case" -- involving my unlawful arrest and five-month incarceration in the Shelby County Jail, plus the wrongful foreclosure on our home of 25 years in Birmingham that forced us to move to Missouri. Strange already is a defendant in "The House Case," and he likely will be added as a defendant to "The Jail Case," assuming the U.S. Eleventh Circuit actually follows the law and reinstates both cases, which were wrongfully dismissed by U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor, a Jeff Sessions acolyte. Proctor has recused himself after admitting he had a conflict in "The House Case," and we are moving to have him forced off "The Jail Case" as well.

If the cases are re-assigned to a real judge -- assuming their is one in the Northern District of Alabama -- Luther Strange could be looking at deposition questions on a host of issues that he almost certainly would rather avoid. Those issues would include his personal and financial relationship with former campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison.

How does all of this tie into the Birmingham Superfund scandal? Let's take a look:

Many citizens might understandably think the Superfund scandal started with the indictment and guilty plea of former State Rep. Oliver Robinson on bribery, fraud, and conspiracy charges. Many might also understandably think the scandal -- involving five industrial companies that might be forced to pay $20 million to clean up pollution on the city's north side -- shouldn't be all that big a deal. After all, $20 million, divided by five, is $4 million -- a relatively paltry sum for outfits like Drummond Company, U.S. Pipe, Walter Energy, KMAC, and Alabama Gas.

As it turns out, the Superfund controversy has been going on longer than many of us (including me) realize. And for reasons that are not fully understood yet, it appears to be a much bigger threat to Birmingham's corporate interests -- read that, "Luther Strange supporters" -- than one might think.

That raises this question, which hits pretty close to home: Did the Superfund issue reach a boiling point that made it a factor in my false arrest and incarceration in October 2013 and the wrongful foreclosure that forced Carol and me to leave our Birmingham home of 25 years and flee to Springfield, Missouri, where we still (to our chagrin) reside? To what degree might Luther Strange have been involved in both of those events?

It's been clear to me for some time that Carol and I were attacked -- literally, I was beaten up and doused with pepper spray inside my own home; Carol eventually was beaten by Missouri deputies and left with a shattered left arm that required trauma surgery -- because of (a) something I had written on this blog, or (b) something powerful interests feared I would write on this blog.

Under category (a), several stories could have prompted retaliation -- my coverage of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and his ties to 1990s gay pornography; my coverage of an extramarital affair involving GOP operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke; my coverage of an extramarital affair involving Luther Strange and former campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison; my coverage of the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case and related skulduggery involving the family behind Orkin Pest Control; and my coverage of the Upton v. Upton divorce case and related skulduggery involving the family behind Alabama Threaded Products.

Luther Strange and Jessica Garrison
That's a lot of possibilities under category (a). Possibilities in category (b) are more fuzzy because, well, I hadn't written about them yet at the time of my arrest and our foreclosure. Two factors, however, might have made me a threat to the corporate and legal interests who wanted to keep the Superfund story corralled: (1) The corporate/legal types know I have good sources. Both Rob Riley and Jessica Garrison sued me for defamation, but neither made any effort, under the law, to show my reporting was false and defamatory. That's because it wasn't, and their own actions suggest they knew it wasn't. In the end, my reporting in both instances, was found, as a matter of law, NOT to be false or defamatory (see here and here); (2) Unlike the mainstream media, I can't be controlled by yelling at my editors or threatening my advertisers; I don't have editors or advertisers.

With that as a backdrop, let's look at a timeline of the Superfund story -- and we will find it produces some curious results. This information is taken mostly from a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) press release about Oliver Robinson's indictment and guilty plea and from an al.com article titled "North Birmingham's 35th Ave EPA Superfund site explained":


(A) 2011

From al.com: "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arrives on scene in 2011, responding to testing results conducted the previous year by Walter Energy that showed contamination in the neighborhoods around the Walter Coke plant. Some early EPA documents refer to the area as the Walter Coke Site, though it was renamed the 35th Avenue Site to indicate that multiple parties likely contributed to the pollution."


(B) 2013

From the DOJ: "In September 2013, EPA notified five companies, including ABC Coke, a division of Drummond Company, that they could potentially be responsible for the pollution. A company determined to be responsible for pollution within the site, known as the 35th Avenue Superfund Site, “could have faced tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs and fines,” the information states."


(C) 2014

From the DOJ: "In July 2014, EPA began considering the petition of a Birmingham environmental advocacy group, GASP, to expand the Superfund site to the Tarrant and Inglenook neighborhoods. EPA granted that petition in October 2014 and contracted with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to perform the preliminary assessment."


(D) 2014

From the DOJ: "In September 2014, EPA proposed adding the Superfund site to its National Priorities List, signaling that it required priority attention. Placement on the priorities list would allow EPA to use the federal Superfund Trust Fund to conduct long-term cleanup at the site, provided the State of Alabama agreed to pay 10 percent of the costs, which could equal millions of dollars, according to the charges. EPA’s decision on priority listing for the site remained pending throughout the scheme.


(E) 2014

From al.com: "The pollution in the north Birmingham neighborhoods of Collegeville, Harriman Park and Fairmont has been around for more than 100 years. The controversy surrounding the cleanup of that pollution is much newer. . . . Sandwiched between two coking plants, and surrounded by other industrial facilities and heavy rail lines, these neighborhoods have long borne the environmental brunt of the city's steel-making success, but since 2014, a legal battle is being waged between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Alabama and the five nearby industries identified as "potentially responsible parties" to the pollution over who should pay to clean up 100 years of industrial residue."


Why is this timeline curious? Well, let's look first at item (B). September 2013 was a key moment in the Superfund controversy, as the EPA notified five Birmingham companies that they could be held responsible for the pollution, to the tune of "tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs and fines." What happened in October 2013? Deputies from Shelby County entered our home -- without showing a warrant or stating their reasons for being there -- and beat me up and hauled me to jail for a five-month incarceration that had zero basis in law. Landing in jail makes it difficult to report on a certain subject, any subject. Hmmm . . .

Now, let's look at item (C). It says that July 2014 was another "hot point" in the Superfund controversy, as EPA received a petition to expand the Superfund site to the Inglenook and Tarrant neighborhoods, a request the agency eventually approved. What else happened in July 2014? Carol and I were forced from our home via a wrongful foreclosure and wound up fleeing to Missouri, where it was less likely that I would be able to cover the Superfund story -- or any Alabama story.

One of our pending federal lawsuits, "The House Case," alleges Luther Strange, then Alabama attorney general, and Jessica Medeiros Garrison, his former campaign manager, were part of a coordinated effort to force us out of Alabama. Garrison worked in an "of counsel" role at Balch and Bingham, the Birmingham law firm at the heart of the Superfund scandal, but she mysteriously left that position in May 2017, and her Facebook and Twitter accounts recently went dark.

Strange has opposed the EPA's actions in North Birmingham, as described by al.com:

The state of Alabama also opposed the NPL listing. Then-Attorney General Luther Strange wrote a letter in 2014 to the EPA's regional administrator stating that Alabama did not agree with the proposal to list the site on the NPL and that "no State money will be expended to assist in any cleanup effort at the 35th Avenue Superfund site."

Alabama Political Reporter since has reported that Strange was present when a Drummond representative offered a bribe to State Rep. John Rogers. Al.com has reported that Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions is closely aligned with Balch and Bingham and could be part of efforts to thwart the EPA investigation.

Do we have ironclad proof that my arrest and our wrongful foreclosure were tied to the Superfund controversy? Not yet. Does the timing of the controversy suggest we were attacked to help ensure that I would not report on the subject? Absolutely.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think it poses THE threat to Luther Strange, and that's why he's trying to pretend it doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for spelling out the timeline on this, LS. Interesting to know that it's been going on that long, and when there were key points that might have tightened up a few butt holes in corporate Bham.

Anonymous said...

If it made Jessica Medeiros Garrison go underground, it's gotta be serious. She only goes under the table to provide certain, highly important services. To go totally underground . . . wow, it's gotta be big.

Anonymous said...

Tying up loose ends on the Baxley/ Vegas story. Quite a bit has been written about Baxley and Vegas, but this goes way beyond anything that's been reported before, Once we have it nailed down, we're talking about a doozy of story.
Legalschnauwzer August 18, 2015

legalschnauzer said...

@11:11 --

If you get to a point where you believe the loose ends are tied up (or close to it), you are welcome to contact me. My e-mail address is on front page of blog, and I would be glad to provide phone number. I've been working on a number of Baxley loose ends myself. If I get that tied up, yes, it's explosive. Pretty sure there is a reason Baxley has become aligned with GOPers like Rob Riley, Mike Hubbard, Luther Strange, Jessica Garrison, and so on.

legalschnauzer said...

For those interested, here is URL to the Baxley-related story that @11:11 references, followed by key segments of it:


http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2015/08/do-judge-claud-neilsons-ties-to-bill.html


We have shown that Claud Neilson, the judge who unlawfully ordered me jailed in the Rob Riley/Liberty Duke defamation case, has longstanding ties to Birmingham attorney Bill Baxley. And we know that Baxley represents Republican operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison in a companion defamation claim that resulted in a $3.5-million default judgment, which I am seeking to have overturned.

But our inquiry does not end there. We also know that Baxley has strong ties to University of Alabama trustee Paul Bryant Jr. Baxley, a rising political star in the 1970s, was friends with the late Crimson Tide football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, and that apparently helped make him close to Bryant's son, who has built a business empire while mostly dodging a federal investigation of insurance fraud in the late 1990s.

How close are Baxley and Bryant Jr.? Bryant once served as Baxley's campaign manager in a run for governor. . . .

As a side note, a source close to the Baxley family tells us the one-time gubernatorial candidate and legal maverick has been seriously compromised by photographic evidence of certain activities that took place during a Las Vegas trip that involved heavy drinking and gambling. In essence, our source says, powerful interests have kept copies of said photographic evidence for several years as a way of keeping "Dollar Bill" in line.

That might explain why Baxley, a Democrat in theory, now is quick to jump in the legal bed with such corporate, right-wing types as Rob Riley, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Sonny Reagan, and Luther Strange. (That, too, is a story where our research is ongoing and might soon yield explosive results.)

As for Bryant Jr., evidence suggests his already privileged life might have been a bit more comfortable with the demise of Legal Schnauzer. Is that why the blog's publisher wound up in jail--and did Bryant Jr. enlist the help of Baxley and Neilson to make sure it happened?

Anonymous said...

Is John Rogers still in hiding? Someone's got him spooked, and John's been around long enough that he shouldn't be easily spooked.

Anonymous said...

Luther's probably hoping that Trump and his new US Atty for the ND of Alabama will save his hide. If that happens, of course, it's a whole new scandal. Will be interesting to see if the new U.S. attorney winds up with his ass in a crack.

legalschnauzer said...

@2:15 --

Jay E. Town is the new USA for ND AL. I agree that Mr. Town, if he isn't careful, could wind up in big trouble. The public already knows the FBI has been interfering people, like John Rogers. If that investigation suddenly disappears under Mr. Town, he might have hell to pay.

Anonymous said...

Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions have histories of supporting horrible U.S. attorneys in Alabama. This latest crop might be their worst yet.

Anonymous said...

This tells you all you need to know about Jay Town. It's from WHNT, Huntsville:


Town currently serves on the Alabama State Republican Party’s executive committee. He supported U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby in his reelection bid last year, appearing in widely seen TV ad for Alabama’s senior senator.

Anonymous said...

Racist judge resigns from bench in Georgia:


http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/local/gwinnett-magistrate-judge-resigns-after-facebook-comments-about-protesters-in/article_ea5e797d-43bf-5b00-a1ce-b6eab0165420.html

legalschnauzer said...

@2:44 --

Thanks for sharing. This judge used an "alt-right" term -- "snowflakes" -- to describe liberal prostesters. That's probably what cooked his goose:


Hinkle reportedly called protesters concerned about Confederate monuments in Charlottesville “snowflakes” on his Facebook page.

“The nut cases tearing down Confederate monuments are equivalent to ISIS destroying history,” he posted.

Anonymous said...

No doubt in my mind that your arrest and incarceration involved Luther Strange. That was driven by the Shelby County Sheriff and the DA. Those people kiss the behind of the attorney general, who was Luther Strange. Bill Pryor, Rob Riley, and others might have wanted it done, but I'd bet everything I own that Luther Strange helped execute the plan. And he might, indeed, have been personally concerned that you would get wind of the Superfund scandal. Would not surprise me one bit.

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for the arrests to start at Drummond, Alabama Power, Balch & Bingham. They've got the token black guy. When are the honkies going to be marched out in handcuffs?

S C said...

Anon @ 2:53 P.M. I wish the Feds had the balls to do so

Anonymous said...

Page 672: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-115shrg24034/pdf/CHRG-115shrg24034.pdf

Anonymous said...

Search Drummond here: http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2017/04/donors_to_former_gov_bentleys.html

Read the comments mentioning Drummond and other names you will recognize (a post and comments from 2011) here: http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2011/09/justice-department-continues-to-play.html

e.a.f. said...

opps. this could be the end of Luther Strange's strange career as a politician. I'm sure come the next election some one will distribute copies of your post. its a very interesting read, connecting all the dots. Hope some one in the Democratic party can read.

Anonymous said...

"To this point, no one else has been indicted, but sources tell The Alabama Political Reporter that will change rapidly in coming weeks.

A number of prominent Alabama legislators and leaders also opposed the Superfund site expansion.

Notably, then Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange twice sent letter to the EPA denouncing the plan to expand the Superfund site to include the Tarrant and Inglenook areas. Following both letters, the Drummond Company paid a campaign contribution to Strange."


http://www.alreporter.com/2017/09/08/former-state-rep-oliver-robinson-pleads-guilty-court-agrees-cooperate/

legalschnauzer said...

@8:54 --

Thanks for sharing. Will be very interesting to see where this story is headed. I notice that Jessica Medeiros Garrison is back on Facebook. She had gone underground when Lutha's name was raised with Superfund story. Maybe she thinks it all will blow over or this could be a "brave" attempt at wishful thinking. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

Two Balch & Bingham lawyers and one Drummond executive indicted in bribery of state legislator

http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2017/09/two_balch_bingham_lawyers_and.html

legalschnauzer said...

@6:52 --

Thanks for sharing. Big story. Can't believe they actually got around to indicting the conservative white guys in this. You usually have to be black or a Democrat (or both) to get indicted in Alabama. Any chance "Big Lutha" will wind up circling the drain in all of this, perhaps with his colleague, Ms. Garrison?