Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Statement at the heart of Todd Henderson perjury case was not proven false, and even if it had been, it was not material to the divorce proceeding in question

Charles Todd Henderson and Yareima Akl
We have shown there were no facts presented at trial to support a conviction of elected Jefferson County District Attorney Charles Todd Henderson. At the heart of the first-degree perjury charge was an exchange in a divorce proceeding, where Henderson was asked if he had ever "spent the night" at the home of campaign worker Yareima Carmen Vallecillos Akl. (Henderson and Akl now are married.) Our review of the proceeding transcript, a private investigator's report, and witness statements at trial show there was no proof Henderson swore falsely when he answered "no."

If there were no facts to support the conviction, what about matters of law? That is simple because there was only one issue of law in the case: Was Henderson's statement, if false, material to the divorce proceeding in question? Under Alabama law, a statement is "material" if it could "have affected the course or outcome of the official proceeding?"

In the Henderson case, it was not proven that he swore falsely, so the material issue should not have come into play. But since a jury wrongly determined that Henderson did swear falsely, let's examine the issue of law -- whether his statement was material. Based on the timing of the divorce lawsuit and statements from Patricia Stephens, judge in the Akl v. Akl divorce case, Henderson's statement was not material.

One troubling question: Why was Stephens' testimony at the Henderson criminal trial so radically different from her statements during the Akl divorce proceeding? We will address that question in a moment.

First, let's look at the timing of the divorce lawsuit -- which the husband (Charbel Akl) filed against the wife (Yareima Akl) -- compared to the timing of the Henderson/Mr. Akl friendship, which developed over the course of his political campaign.

According to press reports, the Akls separated in 2014, and Mr. Akl filed for divorce in May 2015. Was concern about an adulterous relationship between Henderson and Ms. Akl a driving force behind the divorce complaint? It's hard to see how. Evidence at trial showed Henderson and Ms. Akl did not meet, did not know each other, until August 2015 -- three months after the divorce complaint had been filed.

How, then, could a question about adulterous behavior involving Henderson and Ms. Akl -- even though it wasn't asked -- be material to the court proceeding? After all, they didn't know each other when the divorce complaint was filed. It's hard to see how such a question, even one inartfully asked, could be material. Mr. Akl's actions make it clear he wanted a divorce before his wife came to know Henderson.

Another question: Why did Mr. Akl wait roughly 14 months after filing for divorce to pursue surveillance on Henderson and Ms. Akl. If infidelity were an issue in the marriage, why didn't he seek a PI's services before the separation, or at least before filing for divorce?

A PI didn't enter the picture until roughly three months before the 2016 election. Does that mean surveillance was driven more by political concerns, rather than anything related to the divorce case? Was the surveillance ordered, and paid for, by someone other than Mr. Akl?

(Here is a question of legal construction: Alabama law says a statement is material if it "could have affected the outcome or course of the official proceeding?" Does the term "official proceeding," in this case, mean the Akl divorce as a whole or just the hearing in which Henderson is alleged to have sworn falsely? We haven't been able to find case law that answers that question. Either way, it doesn't appear to us that the Henderson statement was material.)

What about the statements of Patricia Stephens, who was judge in the Akl divorce case. A transcript of the hearing in question makes it clear Stephens considered questions about the relationship between Henderson and Ms. Akl to not be material. When Virginia Meigs (attorney for Mr. Akl) started asking off-the-radar questions, Stephens seemed baffled. From the transcript (p. 13):

THE COURT: We're here today to get testimony to divorce these parties and to make a determination on who is going to be the primary custodian. So I'm just not sure where we're going with all of this testimony from Attorney Henderson.

MS. MEIGS: Well, Your Honor, I'm leading up to foundation, and I can't just -- the rules of procedure require that I lay the proper foundation.

THE COURT: For what, though? For their divorce? For child custody? Foundation for what?

MS. MEIGS: The relationship between the two parties, Your Honor.

THE COURT: A relationship -- I'm just not sure where you're going.

Meigs proceeded to ask the "spend the night" question, and Stephens seemed to become more baffled:

THE COURT: We're back on the record. I don't know where Attorney Meigs is going with this line of questioning. If the child wasn't present, I don't care who spent the night at her house on Friday night, Saturday night. I need to know who is a better parent, and we already know that these two folks want a divorce. So I'm just not sure where you're going with this line of questioning.

Here, Stephens all but says she does not consider the line of questioning to be material. She says it's already established that the parties want a divorce -- and if the child was not present, she doesn't care who might have spent the night with whom. Still, the judge gave Meigs some rope:

MS. MEIGS: I would say, Your Honor, that the best interest of the child is at issue today.


MS. MEIGS: And as a result, we need to evaluate both parents.

THE COURT: Absolutely.

MS. MEIGS: Their character and fitness as a parent. And if one parent is acting in an adulterous way with the child present at times, then --

THE COURT: Ask that question, then. If that's what we need to know, get it out.

Strangely, Meigs never asks the question, even after being told by the judge to ask it. So, we are left with the "spend the night" question, and Stephens flatly stated that she did not care about that, unless the child was present. It appears she did not care because she did not consider the question to be material.

Stephens' testimony at the Henderson trial took a different tone. Why? That is hard to figure, unless someone made it worth her while to change her tone. Why did Henderson's defense attorneys seemingly let her get away with it? That also is hard to figure. From an report about Stephens' trial testimony:

In her testimony, Stephens said that "there would not have been a [guardian ad litem] appointment" for Henderson if she knew of his relationship with Mrs. Akl. Mrs. Akl's attorneys requested Henderson be appointed as GAL, and Stephens granted their order in January 2016. He was removed from the position in May.

According to Stephens, Mr. Akl's attorney Virginia Meigs opposed a GAL being appointed at all because the couple did not have the money to pay for one.

What do we learn here? Stephens thought Henderson should not have been appointed GAL because he and the mother in the divorce case knew each other. But Stephens apparently had no quarrel with Henderson because she acknowledges the mother's attorneys had asked for him to be appointed. And we see no signs that Henderson deceived the court; perhaps Stephens did not ask enough questions. Then we have this from

Stephens said before appointing Henderson as the Akls' child's GAL, she did not know of any relationship, or acquaintanceship, between Henderson and Mrs. Akl. If she knew that the two knew each other, she would not have appointed him.

"I need a [GAL] who will tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly about each parent," she said.

Stephens said she was in "stunned disbelief" after she learned of Henderson's and Mrs. Akl's relationship at the September 26, 2016 hearing, where he denied staying the night with her.

Again, Stephens says Henderson should not have been appointed GAL in the Akl's divorce. But is it a crime to be an inappropriate choice as GAL? No. Does Stephens point to anything that goes to perjury, the point of the criminal case? No.

Judge Patricia Stephens
What about Stephens' claim that she was in "stunned disbelief" after learning at the Sept. 26 hearing that Henderson and Ms. Akl were friends? According to an account at, Stephens already knew, long before Sept. 26, 2016, that the two were friends. In fact, the judge removed Henderson as GAL because she knew Ms. Akl had campaigned for Henderson.

So, why was Judge Stephens in "stunned disbelief" after learning about a friendship she already knew about? Is this the same judge who, when the "spend the night question" was posed at a hearing, said she didn't care about that, as long as the child was not present?

How is this for an ironic question: Did Judge Stephens, in fact, commit perjury at the criminal trial by claiming to be in "stunned disbelief" over a friendship she already knew about?

It appears she came closer to perjury than Henderson did.

(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

It sounds like jurors assumed, because Mr. Akl hired a PI, the PI found evidence of overnight stays. But he didn't, and I still can't figure why there have been no reports of the PI testifying.

Anonymous said...

Strange that the divorce plaintiff seemed to be trying to pin adulterous behavior on Mr. Henderson, but he was single, so he wasn't having an affair -- and the surveillance failed to prove he was spending the night.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:29 --

Excellent point. Henderson gets pinned with having an "adulterous relationship" when it wasn't adulterous for him -- he's single. And yet, I get comments all the time from apparent conservative types who are concerned about my Ashley Madison reporting, which reveals high-level professional/corporate types for actively seeking affairs.

Anonymous said...

This is weird -- Attorney Meigs claims she wants to ask about adulterous behavior, the judge tells her to ask away, then she fails to ask about it. I read that part of the transcript and went "WTF".

Anonymous said...

Would Bob, Rob, and Minda Riley have cared about Henderson if he had not beaten Brandon Falls last November? Not a chance.

Anonymous said...

A big point you raise in this, LS: If the husband thought adultery was grounds for his divorce claim, why didn't he hire a PI and seek evidence before filing. I've done research on this question, and most experts recommend that a PI be hired before filing the divorce complaint. That the husband didn't hire a PI until about a year after filing tells me adultery was not an issue in the divorce case. Thus, the question put to Henderson was not material -- or, at the very least, there was reasonable doubt about materiality, and that has to go in favor of Henderson.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:57 --

Agreed. Excellent analysis. On top of that, the Akls were separated for about a year, so if adultery was on the husband's mind, he had plenty of time during the separation to hire a PI and seek evidence of an affair. That he didn't do it suggests to me that the husband probably didn't even pay for the PI and likely didn't hire him. If that's the case, who did?

Anonymous said...

Judge Stephens herself summed it up. At divorce hearing, she said they already knew the Akls wanted a divorce, and unless the child was present, she didn't care about anyone staying overnight.

You've got the judge herself saying this line of questioning was not material.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Meigs either is a really bad attorney or she had a reason for not coming right out and asking Henderson about adultery. Perhaps she was concerned that asking the question directly might subject her client, Mr. Akl, to scrutiny on that subject?

legalschnauzer said...

@11:16 --

Wow, you make a big-time point, one that had not occurred to me. I suspect that one rule of law is this: If you press the opposing party on a subject, it increases the likelihood they will press you on the subject. I think legal scholars call that the "Tit for Tat Theory." It certainly might apply here. How strange that Meigs wanted to dance around the subject, without actually asking about it. It's clear Judge Stephens was confused by all of that, too.

Anonymous said...

Why would Judge Stephens break out in tears during the criminal trial when she said during the divorce case that she didn't care about overnight stays if the child wasn't present? Why would she hint at Henderson manipulating the court when she said nothing about that in the divorce hearing?

Makes me wonder if she was coached and/or paid, or both.

Anonymous said...

John Archibald said in is column that Stephens testimony was devastating in the Henderson trial.

legalschnauzer said...

@12:39 --

I read that, too, and will be writing about MSM coverage in a post tomorrow. Quite a bit of what Archibald writes is right-wing propaganda, designed to prop up the Riley/Bradley Arant crowd.

Archibald's lips are so tightly attached to Matt Hart's ass that I don't know how "The Great Archie" can get himself into position to write a column.

Anonymous said...

It's funny when I read John Archibald's coverage of a court case. This is the guy who couldn't remember his own bankruptcy case. "We had a bankruptcy? Oh wow, I forgot about that." What a joke.

Anonymous said...

If Stephens' testimony was so devastating, did she touch on anything having to do with the perjury charge?

legalschnauzer said...

@1:04 --

According to press reports, she didn't come close to addressing the perjury issue.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like Henderson was indicted for jaywalking and convicted of armed robbery -- two totally different things.

Anonymous said...

So, Schnauzer, you think it's fine for Henderson to have an affair and lie about it?

legalschnauzer said...

@1:22 --

First, Henderson wasn't asked about an affair ("adulterous behavior"), so he couldn't have lied about it. Second, it doesn't matter what I think. It matters what the evidence showed and what the law says. The evidence showed Henderson did not lie on the "spend the night" question. And the law shows, even if he had lied, it wasn't material to the divorce proceeding. Thus, he did not commit perjury.

Perhaps you need to educate yourself by clicking on links and reading the documents presented in this post.

Anonymous said...

Agree with @11:16. Bet Mr. Akl didn't want to be asked about adultery.

Anonymous said...

So were you critical of Matt Hart when he was busting Hubbard’s balls? I thought not. The bottom line on this guy is that he and his girl friend angled for him to get the GAL appointment to sway things in her favor. Totally unethical. Whether he was “spending the night with her” was irrelevant. He was screwing her, while he was supposed to be an impartial advocate for the child - not the mother. He lied about his relationship with the mother and that is why the judge got pissed. This wasn’t some rinky dink issue. This was about the well being of a child, not about a mother’s right to sleep with whomever she wanted.

I can’t deny that the prosecution was politically motivated. But the fact is that he is guilty of the charges, no matter how much you dislike the verdict. 12 people unaminously made that determination. Are you going to argue the jury was tainted?

legalschnauzer said...

What does Mike Hubbard have to do with the Henderson case? Where did I bust Matt Hart's balls in the Henderson case? Are you aware I've stated here multiple times that the Hubbard case was a political prosecution, even though he clearly was guilty. (Still, the conviction should be overturned as a political prosecution.)

You say Henderson gained the GAL appointment via unethical conduct. But he wasn't charged with "unethical conduct." He was charged with perjury, a crime with a specific meaning. In this instance, he was alleged to have lied about spending the night with Ms. Akl. That is 100 percent relevant, and it's the only thing that was relevant in the criminal case. The PI report did not prove the "spending the night" answer was false, so as a matter of law, Henderson was not guilty. The perjury case had nothing to do with "the well being of a child" or a "mother's right to sleep with whomever."

The fact is Henderson was not guilty no matter how much you like the verdict. The jury was either stupid, incompetent, or tainted -- and the case was overseen by a judge who might be the most corrupt SOB in the Southeast.

You have no clue what the case was even about, so it's hard to take you seriously.

Anonymous said...

If you had ever gotten one of your friviolous lawsuits before a jury you would understand the system, as you would have gotten your ass kicked, as you have in front of every judge in your sorry, sordid litigation history.

I know what perjury is. I have litigatied the claim several times. The simple fact is that if the judge lets it go to the jury and they convict, it doesn’t mean that the members of the jury are stupid, incompetent or tainted. Your problem is you can’t accept that the system is what the system is. If there is a result you don’t like, then the system is corrupt.

And you did bust Matt Hart’s balls in the Henderson case. Go read your posts on the trial. You crapped all over him as overreaching and bullying.
And do you really feel Hubbard did not commit crimes for which he was convicted? If so, they you clearly condone the vile shit he was doing as Speaker of the House.

legalschnauzer said...

I've had a case before a jury, and I know how they can be tainted, and I know what it's like to go before a crooked judge. You've litigated perjury cases? Don't make me laugh. If so, you must be the most stupid lawyer on the planet. You say if a judge let's a case go to a jury, then anything the jury finds is OK? You can't be serious. Why, then, do we have appellate courts, which scrutinize the actions of trial judges and juries -- or at least that's what they are supposed to do, when they aren't churning out one-page "affirmed, no opinion" rulings?

I just did a review of the four posts I wrote on Henderson trial this week, and I don't see a single reference to Matt Hart. If you can find such a reference, let me know. As to Matt Hart's balls, I know I didn't mess with them. (Ick!)

Finally, do you have reading comprehension problems? I stated above that Hubbard clearly was guilty of the charges brought against him. But I also stated that Luther Strange brought the prosecution for political reasons, and thus, it was unlawful -- as was the Henderson case.

Have you considered pulling your head out of your ass? It might improve your vision a little bit. But then again, it might make no difference.

Anonymous said...

Henderson thought he was above the law, he got caught deceiving the justice system. Plain and simple. Why come in as GAL per the request of the mother (and her attorney), when the mother has been working on your campaign for months prior, and Henderson had been dining both the mother and child. Henderson tried to protect Ms. AKL by denying the affair, and protect himself from one lie after the other. Evil, Evil Evil. schnauzer-think outside the box, if you condone Henderson's behaviour, you are as wacky, evil and sick as Henderson. That whore must give some wicked blow jobs.

legalschnauzer said...

The case was about three issues: (1) Did Henderson swear falsely about spending the night at Ms. Akl's home? (2) Was that material to the underlying divorce case? (3) Did the state prove Henderson swore falsely?

The answer to No. 3 is no, not even close. All the other stuff you mention is clutter; has nothing to do with the case.

Anonymous said...

What is so special about this Ms. AKL that Henderson lost his head? We finally got a DA we wanted and then Todd gives it up just for an affair with a married woman. Come out clean from the start Todd and we would not be in this mess. Was she really worth it?

legalschnauzer said...

Can you point to any evidence at trial that proved an affair took place? Can you point to anything in the indictment that shows a criminal trial was about an alleged affair?