Thursday, October 26, 2017

Coverage of Charles Todd Henderson case shows Alabama's somnolent press provides cover for white elites who tear at the fabric of public institutions


Charles Todd Henderson and Yareima Akl
One reason Alabama has such a toxic political/legal environment is that its mainstream media (MSM) tends to provide cover for white conservative elites who cheat citizens and sully public institutions. A classic example is coverage of last week's Charles Todd Henderson trial, which ended with Jefferson County's elected Democratic district attorney being convicted of perjury and blocked from taking office.

That means Gov. Kay Ivey will appoint Henderson's replacement, who surely will be someone more palatable to former Gov. Bob Riley and members of his political machine. Don't be surprised if Brandon Falls -- a Riley favorite who lost to Henderson in last November's election -- gets the nod. That would effectively overturn the will of Jefferson County voters -- many of them black Democrats -- who clearly favored the relatively unknown Henderson. But those voters did not count on this: The Rileys and their allies are terrified of a real prosecutor, one who might scrutinize financial shenanigans from their home base in Jefferson County.

The whole point of the Henderson prosecution, which was brought just days before he was to take office after beating Brandon Falls, was to ensure the Rileys stood protected. But you would never know that from reading coverage at the state's primary MSM news site, al.com.

How corrupt are the Riley's actions? Imagine if last Saturday the Alabama Crimson Tide laid a beating on the Tennessee Vols, only to discover that the scoreboard operator was a UT grad who reversed the score as time wound down, giving Tennessee the victory. Can you imagine the howls of outrage?

That's essentially what happened to Henderson, but you hardly hear a peep about it. And that is largely thanks to al.com. Both their reporter who provided daily coverage (Ivana Hrynkiw) and their columnist who provided "analysis" (John Archibald) were utterly lacking in accuracy, inquisitiveness, and critical thinking. In other words, they were in the hip pockets of the conservative elites who lord over their "news organization."

Let's consider a few pearls from Hrynkiw:

(1) In an Oct. 20 article about Henderson's conviction, Hrynkiw wrote:

Transcripts show Henderson twice denied staying with Mrs. Akl at her apartment, but surveillance evidence showed Henderson had stayed at the apartment on several occasions.

Hrynkiw apparently is referring to a private investigator's report from the divorce case involving Henderson campaign aide Yareima Akl. Prosecutors alleged that Henderson lied under oath when asked at a divorce-case hearing if he ever had spent the night at Akl's residence -- and he answered no. But a simple reading of the PI report shows the surveillance report is filled with huge time gaps, and it does not prove Henderson ever spent a night at Akl's home.

(2) In an Oct. 17 article as testimony began, Hrynkiw wrote:

In September 2016 at the Akls' trial, Henderson testified and told Mr. Akl's attorney he had not spent the night at Mrs. Akl's home. Evidence had surfaced that he and Mrs. Akl were in a romantic relationship, according to court records, and photographs had been taken by a private investigator of the two outside Mrs. Akl's apartment.

First, the Sept. 26 proceeding has been described in the press as a hearing. A transcript of the proceeding describes it as a deposition. I've seen nothing to suggest it was a trial. More importantly, Hrynkiw writes that evidence had surfaced of a romantic relationship, but Henderson was not even asked about such a relationship at the hearing. He was asked if he had ever spent the night at Ms. Akl's home, nothing more.

John Archibald
As for evidence, Hrynkiw apparently is referring to the PI report, which provided no proof that Henderson had spent the night or that he had a romantic relationship with Ms. Akl. The report describes Ms. Akl carrying campaign signs (surprise, she worked on his campaign!), watering plants, taking out trash. Does it describe Henderson and Akl holding hands, hugging, kissing, whispering sweet nothings in each other's ears. No, no, no, and no. It all sounds about as romantic as a trip to the proctologist.

Finally, Hrynkiw hints that a photo of the two outside Ms. Akl's apartment proves something. What, pray tell does it prove -- that they can stand upright?


Now, let's turn to Archibald, who always can be counted on to pick up his pom-poms and don a cheerleader's skirt whenever right-wing prosecutors are chasing individuals who are white, black, or Democrats -- or some combination of the above.

(1) In an Oct. 20 column, Archibald does his best cheerleading routine under the title "Jeffco DA guilty of perjury, but that's just the tip of the slimeberg." Under that subtle headline, we find the following:

Henderson began a relationship with Akl while the woman was embroiled in a heated divorce. She worked on his campaign and they became close. They began to date and spend the night together and call each other girlfriend and boyfriend.

They began to spend the night together? Where does Archibald get this? A PI report certainly does not prove it.

(2) In the same column, Archibald writes as follows:

And in the midst of it, acting as if he did not know Akl or her 10-year-old child, Henderson asked a judge to appoint him as the child's guardian ad litem in the divorce. He was supposed to look out for the child's interests as the parents fought it out. It's a position that must be unbiased, that cannot be tied to a parent.

Uhhhh . . . it's been reported in multiple places -- and a transcript clearly shows -- that Ms. Akl's attorney (Daniel Chambers), not Henderson, asked Judge Patricia Stephens to appoint Henderson as guardian ad litem.

(3) Still in the same column, Archibald writes:

Stephens was a devastating witness. She cried as she recounted a closed-door meeting with lawyers after Henderson testified that he and Akl never spent the night together. She was shown evidence then that it was a lie.

What evidence was she shown that it was a lie? Archibald doesn't say. But it couldn't have been the PI report because it doesn't come close to proving a lie. Maybe Archibald, and others, were "assuming facts not in evidence." That's not how a criminal trial is supposed to work, and Archibald should know that.

Meanwhile, Archibald hints that a witness crying on the stand was the deciding factor in a criminal prosecution? Really, that's how court cases are decided now?


(4) Finally, Archibald cackles at the notion Henderson was the victim of a political prosecution:

So forgive me if I give short shrift to the chorus of Democrats who swore in the last few weeks that Henderson, himself a Democrat, was a victim of some kind of political prosecution.

Here are questions a commenter raised at this blog the other day, and perhaps Archibald should ponder them: Would Charles Todd Henderson have been prosecuted for perjury if he had not run for DA as a Democrat in Jefferson County? Would Henderson have been prosecuted if he had not beaten Bob Riley-favorite Brandon Falls in last November's election?

Readers of "The Great Archie" should pose those questions to him. Does he have the integrity to answer honestly? I doubt it. But anyone with the slightest integrity and knowledge of Alabama's toxic political scene knows the answers. They are "no" and "no."

And that means Henderson was, in fact, the victim of a political prosecution -- even if John Archibald has his pigtails in a knot and his mind set in concrete.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

How does John Archibald still have a job?

Anonymous said...

It's been clear for a long time that al.com is a right-wing crap sheet, but they really topped themselves with coverage on the Henderson case.

Anonymous said...

Hey, al.com: If you are going to be one-sided, at least get the basic facts right.

Anonymous said...

I bet Archibald knew the outcome of the trial before the verdict was read, and he already had his "slimy slimeberg" column written.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Rob Riley edited Archibald's articles?

Anonymous said...

With all the firings at al.com why wasn't Archibald canned? The guy is incompetent.

legalschnauzer said...

@9:55 --

I've asked myself that question. I suspect Archibald has been in the al.com inner circle enough that he has gathered a lot of dirt on the "news operation." They probably know he could spread mountains of dirt if he were ever fired.

Anonymous said...

I wish someone would start a new, all-digital news organization in Birmingham. It's badly needed. Maybe it would run al.com out of business.

Anonymous said...

The journalism in our country is devolving almost as badly as our politics.

Anonymous said...

Has Whitmire piped up with his usual bullcrap? Actually, he can write some pretty good stuff at times, when he isn't giving cover for John Merrill's extramarital affairs.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Akl looks mighty fine to me. That has nothing to do with legal questions, but just felt the world needed to know my opinion on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Aboard the Eliza Battle Captain Marshall was greeting the guests when the General entered eating a small drumstick. The General remarked that the cornish hen in the coop was puny but having a small container attached to their leg , containing salt and a napkin,was a good idea. The startled Captain asked the General what happened to the napkin. The General replied that Nannie Dee was using it for a lipstick blotter. Eliza Yancey placed something into the Captain's hand and whispered something to him. The Captain informed the Guest that Eliza Yancey would attend to their needs while he went to the pilot house to chart a course for the Eliza Battle. In the pilot house Admiral Tyron And Dr Foreman were waiting for a message from Mike, when the Captain entered and announced that he had received a message from Mike. Admiral Tyron remarked that he hoped the red smears were not blood. The Captain answered "Long story short , we are minus one carrier pigeon." The captain began reading the message." The Riley machine had Henderson prosecuted to prove Hart was corrupt to help clear mikes name.Everyone afraid of Mcgregor's civil suit. Attorney General to shut down gambling to limit damages. Victory land to engage Retirement System of al and the PEEHIP lawsuit. Hart balked at prosecuting Henderson. Defense to assist." Admiral Tyron asked the Captain for his assessment . The Captain replied that Archibald's column on Henderson's marriage was a diversion to explain why Hart did not call Ms Akl to the Witness stand. They couldn't have Married when the article was written because the 60 day delay after her July 24 divorce had not expired. Also The husband appealed the divorce on August 4 and Ms Akl could not marry during the appeal . The Appeal dated Sept 15 ordered that she not remarry before 60 days after Sept 15. Bob Yancey entered the pilot house carrying some refreshments. Bob Yancey inquired as how the private investigator's report was entered as evidence. The Captain replied that Hart had the report entered into the Sept 26 2016 hearing records in March, making it part of the court records entered at Henderson's trial. The Captain added the the only unexplained event was the Judge testifying so vigorous to convict . Bob Yancey replied "Didn't you know ? She is originally from Auburn . She is kinfolk. Mike has a Plan!

Anonymous said...

Ms. Akl does looks mighty fine to me - She did con that TODD guy. Todd's defense team did not call any witnesses, not Henderson, not Ms. AKL, wonder why? Seems Todd is pussy-whipped. Todd needs to wake up, smell the roses, whore used him-destroyed his professional position/job-Todd could have just dated her and refused the Guard. ATLITEM job. What was he thinking? Can Todd not see Ms. Akl destructive/con-artist side, using him in exchange for sex. We worked so hard to get Todd elected and Ms. AKL got Todd wrapped all around her finger, bitch, destroyed a good man for the people.