Friday, September 29, 2017

Three more indictments come in Superfund scandal, putting Balch and Drummond "mules" on the run and producing absurdist comments from defense counsel


U.S. Attorney Jay Town announces indictments
(From birminghamwatch.org)
Yesterday's announcement of federal indictments against two Balch Bingham lawyers and one Drummond Co. executive is a rare sign that members of Alabama's white ruling elites (also known as "Big Mules") might be held accountable for their underhanded acts. It also brought a quote that might represent one of the most damning statements ever about the legal profession. The quote came from a member of a Birmingham law firm that has a recent history of making ludicrous arguments in court. We've seen that firsthand -- and our experience suggests defense attorneys will be making quite a few nonsensical arguments as they try to keep Big Mules out of federal prison.

A six-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court charges Joel Iverson Gilbert and Steven George McKinney, both partners in the Birmingham law firm Balch Bingham, and David Lynn Roberson, vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Drummond Co., with conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, and money laundering. The indictment alleges they conspired to provide former state Rep. Oliver L. Robinson Jr. with a valuable and confidential consulting contract in exchange for his taking official action favorable to Balch and its client, Drummond, regarding a Superfund cleanup site in north Birmingham.

A press release from the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama provides no clues if additional indictments are coming. But according to one recent press report, U.S. Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) was present when a Drummond representative offered State Rep. John Rogers a bribe. Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Strange's one-time campaign manager and mistress, served in an "of counsel" role at Balch until exiting the firm in May -- and her social-media presence mostly vanished in the weeks after Strange's name was raised in connection to the Superfund case. For good measure, Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions, who already is at the center of the RussiaGate scandal, is closely aligned with Balch.

We highly recommend a relatively new local Web site, banbalch.com. Its report on yesterday's indictments is titled "Will Balch Bingham Partner Turn Federal Witness?" From that post:

Looks likes Balch has seen the writing on the wall and appears to have thrown the indicted partners under the bus. (Putting them on administrative leave and deleting their Web pages.)

We note the silence from Steve McKinney. Will McKinney turn federal witness? Will he, too, start singing like a canary?

On his web page at Balch (since taken down), McKinney wrote, “I 'get the call’ when an environmental problem has developed and legal or strategic help is needed fast.”

So who called McKinney when Drummond needed help in suppressing the African-Americans in North Birmingham? Who did he report to about the Robinson Bribery scheme? Did any other partners or Balch lobbyists know about this scheme?

The banbalch.com post ends with this, which offers sound advice and sobering thoughts:

On that same now defunct web page, McKinney noted, “I come from a blue-collar home where education and a serious work ethic came in daily doses.”

Maybe its time to use blue-collar smarts to shorten one’s possible prison sentence, a potential death sentence.

At 62 years of age, even a 15 year federal prison term would mean McKinney could die in prison. Now that’s a bitter dose of reality.

As for the extraordinary comment we mentioned at the beginning of this post, it came from Gilbert's defense attorney -- Jack Sharman, a partner at Lightfoot Franklin and White. Before the indictments were announced, Sharman said, as stated at Alabama Political Reporter:

“Joel Gilbert is innocent of these charges,” Sharman said. “He did not bribe anyone. This is a case that never should have been brought. Joel represented a client in a legal dispute with the EPA, a powerful and, in this case, over-reaching federal agency. Everything he did while representing that client was lawful and ethical. He is a longtime partner at a leading law firm. A lawyer with a reputation for honesty and integrity, he did what is routine for good counselors to do for corporate and individual clients every day – he engaged a consultant through a written contract to perform real and lawful services.

The way I read that, Sharman is saying: "The line between bribing someone and providing routine legal work is so thin that reasonable minds hardly can tell them apart." Gee, the Alabama State Bar should be delighted to learn that.

It's not unusual for members of the Lightfoot firm to make off-the-charts legal arguments. We've seen it in what we call "The House Case," a federal lawsuit that is on appeal before the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta. The Lightfoot firm represents multiple defendants -- Marie Claire, Hearst Corp., al.com, and Yellowhammer News -- in "The House Case."

One of Lightfoot's arguments is that demonstrably false and defamatory statements are "substantially true." No kidding. They also argue that the Marie Claire fashion magazine is a "well-respected news source." Again, no kidding. You can check out a Marie Claire cover (left) and decide for yourself if it appears to be a serious news source. Here is how we reported it in a January 2017 post:

Lawyers for Hearst Corporation take a demonstrably false claim from their Marie Claire fashion magazine -- that there was a trial in Jessica Medeiros Garrison's lawsuit against me -- and argue that it was "substantially true," and, thus, not defamatory. The same lawyers -- from Birmingham's Lightfoot Franklin and White firm -- represent the right-wing propaganda site Yellowhammer News (YH) and argue that its reporting on the Garrison case is not defamatory because it came from a "well-respected news source."

Anyone can check the public docket in Garrison's underlying defamation case -- the one where she was awarded $3.5 million in a default judgment that, by law, is void for failure to notice the opposing party -- and see there was no trial. From our January report:

As noted in an earlier post, Hearst can't keep its story straight. It claims the Marie Claire article was based in part on court records from Garrison's lawsuit. But the article repeatedly misstates facts that easily could be found from a check of the court records. For example, the article states there was a trial when there clearly was no trial. There wasn't even any discovery or summary-judgment proceedings that generally must precede a trial.

Still, Hearst wants the court, and the public, to believe that the article's false statement regarding a trial is "substantially true" -- that a hearing and a trial are more or less the same thing. I'm sure that would be news to anyone who has the slightest knowledge of our justice system. I guess it means that a rhinoceros and a rabbit are substantially the same thing, given that both words begin with "r"

Here is part of our argument in response to the Lightfoot nonsense:

Hearst’s false claim that there was a trial in the Garrison matter: 
. . . Hearst claims the statement is “substantially true” and “not capable of defamatory meaning.” Hearst claims “a trial is synonymous with an evidentiary hearing,” but it provides zero citations to law to support that statement. In fact, Hearst cites Alabama law holding, “A communication is considered defamatory ‘if it tends so to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community . . . “ The statement in the Marie Claire article does exactly that to Roger Shuler. It claims that Mr. Shuler was hit with a $3.5-million judgment after a trial (supposedly a jury trial, as required by First Amendment law), after discovery and a trial on the merits. But none of that happened; there was no discovery, there was no trial, there was no jury, and there was no valid judgment. The report of a trial is false, and it clearly harms Roger Shuler’s reputation as a journalist and as a human being. It suggests Roger Shuler was found liable for a huge award by a jury of his peers; in fact, that did not happen at all. Finally, Hearst claims this ruling is a question for the court. If that is so, the court is required to make all findings while viewing matters in “a light most favorable to the nonmoving party (the Shulers).” On multiple grounds, the court is required to find for the Shulers on this issue.

As you can see, Lightfoot lawyers can't keep their stories straight, often can't support their arguments with citations to law, and they even tend to wind up admitting that their own statements are horse manure.

Look for more of that kind of thing as the Superfund scandal unfolds. We've seen it up close.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

"bhamliberal

3 hours ago

Roberson, a VP, spent $360,000 of Drummond money and didn't have to have it approved? There are more dirty Drummond excutives."




http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/09/alabama_big_mules_indicted_why.html

Anonymous said...

How many years have Balch and Drummond been dirty before they finally get nailed, or at least there is a chance they get nailed?

Anonymous said...

They still had to indict the black guy first. I think that's required by law in Alabama.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the alert about banbalch.com. Very interesting web site.

Anonymous said...

Drummond stepped in some poop back in the late 70s. Things don't change much, do they?


http://www.nytimes.com/1979/11/01/archives/legislator-and-3-coal-officials-indicted-in-alabama-another.html?mcubz=1

Anonymous said...

Great article by Josh Moon, of Alabama Political Reporter, about the indictments. Moon says Jay Town was asked over and over about other possible bad actors in this, and Town said he didn't know of anyone else. What a joke.


http://www.alreporter.com/2017/09/29/indictments-superfund-bribery-case-no-win-alabama-citizens/

Anonymous said...

I bet Chuck Person and the other black basketball coaches arrested in that scandal will get more punishment than these Balch and Drummond SOBs.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:18 --

Thanks for sharing. Josh Moon is a top-notch journalist, and his article is the best one I've seen about yesterday's indictments. This jumps out at me:


If you believed the bribery scandal that emerged from a scheme to undermine the cleanup of an EPA superfund site in North Birmingham would turn into a massive scandal that brought down the state’s biggest political operatives and deal a blow to political corruption in Alabama, well, you probably haven’t lived here long enough to know better.

Because it’s not.

The new U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Jay Town, made that clear at a press conference on Thursday in Birmingham.


This massive scandal involving one of the country’s largest coal companies, one of the largest and most influential law firms in Alabama and elected officials was carried out by … just four guys.

And only those four.

Joel Gilbert and Steven G. McKinney from Balch and Bingham, David Roberson from Drummond Coal and former state Rep. Oliver Robinson.

Nobody else!

legalschnauzer said...

More intriguing stuff from Josh Moon article:


Are you sure there wasn’t someone else, the media gathered in Birmingham repeatedly asked Town.

Not that we’re aware of, came the reply over and over.

Which, of course, seems farfetched. Like, plot of The Fast and the Furious-level unbelievable.

legalschnauzer said...

And here is this kicker from Josh Moon, about Luther Strange:


We KNOW other public officials were involved in this. We know Luther Strange was up to his eyeballs in it.

Strange mysteriously inserted himself and his office into this mess, writing two letters to the EPA and assuring the agency that the state of Alabama would not be cooperating. The head of Alabama’s Department of Environmental Management said flatly when asked that it never asked Strange to get involved, and ADEM was undeniably tasked by Gov. Robert Bentley to handle this issue.

So why did Strange get involved?

As always, the answer seems to be money.

Within days of each letter landing in the EPA’s mailbox, $25,000 in donations from Drummond found its way into Strange’s campaign accounts.

It stinks. And we all know it stinks.

Anonymous said...

I'm not getting my hopes up that anything will change here in Ala. First, review the facts. We have (1) black ex politician who is a convicted felon that's going to be testifying against (3) well placed white men, (2) of which are officers of the court, then other VP of a major corporation. Yes, I can see it now. These white guys are in a win win, either way as long as they stick to their stories, they will be set for life, money wise. It's sad, but nonetheless true and we all know it.

legalschnauzer said...

Memo to @1:53 --

You keep topping yourself . . . incredible . . . can't stop laughing . . . hack, snort!

Anonymous said...

Jay Town must have talked in circles at the press conference. This is from a story by Brandon Moseley, of APR, one of Josh Moon's colleagues:


Regarding the exposure of possible other bad actors, Town said, “If more evidence comes up, that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt, we will charge them.”


That sounds like there could be others indicted.


http://www.alreporter.com/2017/09/29/federal-grand-jury-indicts-two-balch-bingham-and-drummind-vp-in-conspiracy-to-bribe-oliver-robinson/

Anonymous said...

LS,

Is @1:53 the same loon who had you howling late last night and the night before? I think he referred to Jessica Garrison last night as a "smart, capable" woman? Capable of what, spreading her legs for a circus freak like Luther Strange?

legalschnauzer said...

@4:36 --

Yes, pretty sure it's the same guy, although he normally comments late at night. He says he's "coming after me." And he has "comprising" footage of me in "prison." In his latest missive, which I haven't published, he claims I'm desperately in love, and obsessed, with Jessica Garrison. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

The guy is so out of touch with realty, so brazen in his cluelessness, that it makes me laugh til it hurts. For the record, I've been in the same room with Jessica Garrison, and she ain't nothing special -- especially in Birmingham. She's basically a bag of bones, with a decent makeup job. Take off the makeup, and she's about as attractive as a straw broom. You can go to Brookwood Village any day of the week and see a thousand women better looking than her. Plus, read the Marie Claire article, and you can come to only one conclusion: Jessica Garrison isn't very bright, and she is prone to hysterics. Extremely unattractive, in my book. So, you can see why I view Mr. Loon's comments as comedy gold.

Anonymous said...

Possible that Jay Town is playing coy on further indictments, that he is laying low on the issue so as not to tip off anyone?

Anonymous said...

Every time I speak of the haters and losers I do so with great love and affection. They cannot help the fact that they were born fucked up!

Anonymous said...

LS . . .

Please share the comment from the loon @1:53. I really want to see what he wrote this time.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:15 --

Sure, why not? But it's out there. We'll probably hear more from him again. My guess is that this is someone who generally is disturbed (on a regular basis) or is highly agitated about something that is going on right now -- maybe both. I guess you can be both disturbed (long-term) and agitated (short-term). What do you think?


Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Three more indictments come in Superfund scandal, ...":

Took longer in the article than usual for you to get Jessica's dame in there. Is you infatuation with her finally ebbing some? I hope so because your stalking creep factor is off the charts champ. Does your wife know of this crush? I don't blame you. Look what you have at home. Do you picture Jessica when laying next to that hag of a woman? Do you toss and turn knowing that she is a millionaire while you are destitute because of your love for her. It is like a damn Greek tragedy. But so entertaining. Keep up the good work.

Posted by Anonymous to Legal Schnauzer at September 29, 2017 at 1:53 PM

con fused said...

I'm not sure how to tell a mule from a jackass.

That means I'm not sure if these "Alabama Big Mules" are mules or whether they might be jackasses.

Is there a way for the average citizen to tell the difference?

e.a.f. said...

those 4 and only those 4 are the ones the Mules can throw under the bus without too much trouble. The rest most likely have more on the Mules, so they will be kept out of it.

Thank you for referring us to banbalch.com. Most entertaining reading. I do swear some of you bloggers in Alabama need to get together and do a t.v. series. Alabama has nothing on any of the t.v. series. What is most interesting is that all the material from Alabama is true. omg........

Anonymous said...

The gist and sting was that a judge awarded her a huge damage verdict.
And that was true, so you will lose.

legalschnauzer said...

@12:13 --

Thanks for putting your ignorance of defamation law on full display -- not that anyone will be surprised by that. Let's see you try to make a legit legal argument on Garrison's behalf. That should be fun to watch.

BTW, what is a "gist and sting"? Peculiar phrase.

Finally, a question: Why are you so obsessed with Jessica Garrison? Hmmmm . . .

Anonymous said...

Didn't SG, the oldest law firm in Birmingham, represent the same fine folks as Balch?

legalschnauzer said...

@12:52 --

You're talking about Spain Gillon, and did they also represent Drummond? I'm not sure, but I'm betting the answer is yes. Will see if I can find any info on that.

Anonymous said...

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/10/jeff-sessions-is-in-charge-of-a-bribery-prosecution-involving-two-of-his-top-donors/

legalschnauzer said...

@12:23 --

Thanks for sharing. Very interesting article. I have a post coming on this in the a.m.