|Luther and Melissa Strange|
As part of its election-day coverage on the Strange vs. Roy Moore U.S. Senate runoff, heavy.com ran an article about Strange's wife, with the title "Melissa Strange, Luther's wife: Five Fast Facts You Need to Know." On the same day, the Web site also ran similar factoid-filled pieces on Luther Strange; Roy Moore; and Moore's wife, Kayla.
The item on Melissa Strange included "fast fact" No. 2, which carried this title: "A Blogger Claimed Strange Had an Extramarital Affair With a Campaign Aide, Who Won a $3.5 Million Settlement." That segment apparently was based totally on Garrison's "as told to" article with writer Liz Welch, published in October 2015 at the Hearst-owned fashion magazine and Web site Marie Claire. With that in mind, it's no surprise that the heavy.com segment is factually challenged.
Factual problems begin with the headline; there was no settlement in Garrison's defamation lawsuit against me. There also was no discovery, no trial, and no jury -- only a determination by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Don Blankenship, who essentially acted as a one-man censor in the case. U.S. law long has held that defamation cases must be determined at trial, before a jury. That's because of the First Amendment's exalted status in American law -- and no judge, by law, can unilaterally act as a one-man censor. But that is exactly what Blankenship did in the Garrison case
There also was no judgment on the merits in the case. It was a default judgment, the fallout from my unlawful five-month incarceration in Shelby County (Oct. 23, 2013 to March 26, 2014). That helped lead to a wrongful foreclosure on our house of 25 years in Birmingham, and with insufficient time to save our house after my release from jail, Carol and I were forced to move to Springfield, Missouri, where I grew up.
Living like a refugee in Missouri, I could not defend myself against Garrison's allegations. In fact, I never received notice of her default application or the default hearing -- and the docket shows such notice never was sent. You'd be surprised how hard it is to appear at court hearings when you receive no notice that they are being held. That's what led to the default judgment.
None of this is mentioned in the heavy.com article, written by Daniel S. Levine. The author clearly has zero knowledge of relevant law in the Garrison case, and it appears he made no effort to research it. But aside from the law, Levine can't get his facts straight -- and that's because he relied on a lousy original source, the Marie Claire article.
In fact, the Marie Claire article is so bad that it is the subject of a defamation claim in a federal lawsuit that currently is on appeal in the U.S. Eleventh Circuit. That's right, I am suing Garrison, Marie Claire, and Hearst for defamation -- but Levine did not bother to learn about that.
Let's check out the beginning of the section about my reporting on the Strange-Garrison affair:
Strange and Melissa have been married for over 30 years, but in a 2013 blog post, Legal Schnauzer blogger Roger Shuler, claimed he had an affair with former campaign staffer Jessica Garrison. The post was titled “AG Luther Strange Has A Messy Extramarital Affair With Ex Campaign Aide Jessica Medeiros Garrison” and was published in July 2013.
Read literally, that says I claim to have had an affair with Jessica Garrison. My response? (A) You'll never hear that claim coming from my mouth; (B) The sentence is so poorly written that it becomes inaccurate to an absurd level. Then, we have this:
Garrison responded with an interview for Marie Claire and a lawsuit for $3.5 million. Garrison told Marie Claire that Melissa knew it wasn’t true and even called her.
The byline on the article says, "By Jessica Garrison, as told to Liz Welch." Garrison is listed as the author, with Welch essentially serving as her stenographer. We can find no indication that Welch asked Garrison a single question, so it was not an interview. And there is no evidence that either checked the court docket for the simplest facts. For example, Garrison claims there was a trial in the case -- but if there was, it was held without me, the defendant. A check of the docket, of course shows there was no trial.
What about this?
The rumor continued to follow her, even though it wasn’t true. She sued and the judge awarded her $3.5 million.
Levine makes a blanket statement that my reporting on the Strange/Garrison was not true. But there is zero evidence from an adversarial proceeding to prove that. As noted earlier, there was no discovery, which means Blankenship's default judgment was rendered on the basis of almost no evidence. Luther Strange and Garrison supposedly testified at a hearing, but I wasn't present, so there was no cross-examination. (And there is substantial evidence that Garrison committed perjury.) As we've shown in multiple posts, the ultimate finding of the court -- under relevant law -- was that my reporting was neither false, nor defamatory. But you don't read that at heavy.com.
Garrison's $3.5-million judgment is void because I was not noticed on her default application or hearing -- and I have an unlimited amount of time to attack it. In other words, Garrison's judgment isn't worth a nickel, much less $3.5 million.
Finally, we have this:
Shuler vowed to fight the judgement. He was previously jailed for five months after his reporting on former Governor Bob Riley’s son. Shuler continues to report on Alabama politics today.
First, I haven't just vowed to fight the judgment, I have fought the judgment, via the aforementioned federal lawsuit. But more importantly, consider that second sentence, in yellow. Shouldn't any journalist who writes that -- or any citizen who reads it -- say, "How does a journalist get thrown in jail for writing about Rob Riley, or anyone else"? The answer: He can't, under the law. I was thrown in jail based on a preliminary injunction -- issued by a judge, no trial, no jury -- that has been prohibited by more than 200 years of First Amendment law. But Levine apparently did not bat an eyebrow when writing the sentence in yellow.
Strangely, Levine acknowledges that he checked my blog before writing his piece, but he must not have looked for the multiple posts (such as this one) that show the Marie Claire article is pretty much a fact-free piece of rubbish.
Heavy.com does serve up some heavy irony, which it apparently does not recognize. Let's consider this from the introduction to the piece about Melissa Strange:
[Luther] Strange has been serving as Alabama’s Senator since President Donald Trump chose Jeff Sessions to be his U.S. Attorney General. The 64-year-old Strange was appointed by Governor Robert J. Bentley shortly before he resigned due to a sex scandal.
How did the public come to learn about the Bentley sex scandal? Because I broke the story, here at Legal Schnauzer -- roughly seven months before the mainstream media picked up on it.
Without knowing it, heavy.com acknowledges my track record of accurately reporting on subjects that many other news outlets won't touch. The Strange/Garrison story is a classic example of such reporting.
But you wouldn't know that from reading heavy.com. It apparently is so busy being fast that it can't bother with being factual.