|Charles Todd Henderson hugs his wife, Yareima,|
after Friday's guilty verdict was announced.
Henderson, the duly elected Democratic district attorney of Jefferson County, was convicted last Friday of first-degree perjury in a case that would have to improve significantly to reach the level of "putrid." The case against Henderson reeked from the moment his indictment was announced on Jan. 13 of this year. That's because it came roughly two months after Henderson had the audacity to beat Republican Brandon Falls, who held the position for nine years, after Gov. Bob Riley appointed him in 2008.
As long as Falls was in office, ex-Gov. Riley -- along with children Rob ("Uday") and Minda -- did not have to worry about anyone in law enforcement taking a critical glance at their unsavory activities. But that changed with Henderson's unexpected victory, suggesting an unfriendly DA might investigate the Rileys, leading to possible prosecution, conviction, and prison time.
Modern Alabama history tells us that when an election does not go the Rileys' way, they resort to underhanded tactics to steal it. In the Siegelman matter, that meant overnight vote manipulation in the 2002 governor's race -- followed by a Karl Rove-driven federal prosecution to ensure Siegelman would not beat an unpopular Bob Riley in 2006. In the Henderson case, it meant turning to a political ally -- former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange -- to bring a bogus perjury case that would keep Henderson from taking office. And with a conviction, Henderson is precluded by state law from serving in an office that he won fair and square.
Why do we say the case against Henderson was bogus? Well, it was clear at the time of indictment the case was driven by politics; after all, the indictment did not even specify the false statement Henderson allegedly made under oath in a divorce case involving his campaign worker, Yareima Akl. The role of politics in the case is even more clear now that Henderson has been convicted. That's because a review of the trial plainly shows the prosecution was not driven by facts or law. That leaves only one driving factor -- Riley-based politics.
First, two hideously corrupt political figures ramrodded the proceedings. Luther Strange, who brought the case, has so many ethics complaints pending against him that investigators can't keep up with them all. Sibley Reynolds, the Chilton County judge who was assigned after Jefferson County judges recused, has a documented history of making wildly unlawful rulings. (See here, here, and here.) My record on predictions is so-so, but I knew when the Alabama Supreme Court appointed Reynolds -- likely with the assistance of Riley bot Jim Main -- that Henderson would be convicted.
That, in fact, happened -- even though the conviction has zero support in fact or law. And that turns our attention to political chicanery, which is easy to detect in the Henderson matter because Alabama perjury law is so simple. Here is how it's defined at Code of Alabama 13A-10-101:
A person commits the crime of perjury in the first degree when in any official proceeding he swears falsely and his false statement is material to the proceeding in which it is made.
What about specifics in the Henderson case? It presented two straightforward questions:
(1) Did Henderson falsely reply "no" when asked under oath if there had been a time when he "spent the night" at Ms. Akl's apartment"? and
(2) Was that answer "material" to the proceeding in which it was held -- the divorce case involving Ms. Akl and her now ex-husband, Charbel Akl?
What does it mean for a statement to be "material" under Alabama law? Here is the definition under Code of Alabama 13A-10-100:
MATERIAL. A statement is "material," regardless of the admissibility of the statement under the rules of evidence, if it could have affected the course or outcome of the official proceeding. It is no defense that the declarant mistakenly believed the falsification to be immaterial. Whether a falsification is material in a given factual situation is a question of law.
The question in No. 1 above is the only issue of fact in the Henderson case. Question No. 2 is the only issue of law. Sounds simple, right? So, how did an Alabama jury reach a verdict that is so palpably wrong and unjust?
We can think of numerous possible answers to that last question. But even al.com columnist John Archibald, whose analysis of the trial was comically wrong-headed, suggested potential jurors showed the combined curiosity and intelligence of a week-old burrito, during the voir dire process.
Perhaps that's why they fell for bogus contentions from prosecutors and the press that Henderson had lied under oath about a romantic relationship with Ms. Akl? (The couple now is married.)
In fact, Henderson was not asked, in the question where he was alleged to have committed perjury, about a romantic relationship with Ms. Akl. And he was not asked throughout the relevant proceeding about such a relationship.
In other words, jurors apparently convicted Henderson of lying about a romantic relationship when he was not even asked about one.
That's what serves as "Alabama justice" in an age of crooked Republicans, such as Bob Riley.
How does Charles Todd Henderson stand convicted of perjury when the facts plainly show he did not "swear falsely" to the question put to him? We will address that question in an upcoming post.
(To be continued)