Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Reports about shell companies and Sean Hannity's real-estate holdings raise questions about foreclosures in Alabama, Georgia, and other Southern states


Sean Hannity
Revelations that Fox News' Sean Hannity is linked to more than 20 shell companies that bought roughly $90 million of real estate in mostly Southern states should raise eyebrows with anyone who has experienced a foreclosure over the past few years in Alabama -- and that includes your humble blogger.

The whole smelly Hannity story has a distinctly Southern stench to it. The shell companies were formed in Georgia, via a wealth-management firm in the Atlanta suburb of Kennesaw. The properties are in seven states -- including Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas -- along with New York and Vermont. After a brief stint in college radio, Hannity started his professional broadcast career at radio stations in Athens, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia.

Why does the Hannity story raise an eyebrow with yours truly? My wife, Carol, and I went through a dubious foreclosure on our home of 25 years in Birmingham. Our home went into default in 2013, and we were in a forbearance program with our mortgage company (Chase) to get back on track when I was arrested in October 2013 shortly after breaking a series of posts about U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and his history of posing nude for photographs that appeared at the gay-pornography Web site badpuppy.com in 1997.

The five months I was wrongfully incarcerated cost us any chance of saving our home, and it was sold at foreclosure in summer 2014, forcing us to move to my home state of Missouri. Reporting on the Hannity story states that many of his properties were bought at foreclosure, but we've seen no mention that foreclosures can be conducted unlawfully. Ours definitely was a wrongful foreclosure, and we have filed a federal lawsuit (we call it "The House Case") over the matter. As often is the case in legal matters where we are involved, courts have made numerous rulings that are contrary to simple, black-letter law.

Corrupt rulings in "The House Case" started in the Northern District of Alabama under Judge R. David Proctor and have grown more blatant at the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Bill Pryor and is based -- surprise, surprise -- in Atlanta, not far from the epicenter of Sean Hannity's real-estate empire. (More reporting on the Eleventh Circuit and our "House Case," plus possible ties between our foreclosure and the Hannity story, in upcoming posts.)

Hannity's real-estate holdings revolve around Henssler Financial, which includes Bill Lako, a principal who has appeared on Hannity's radio show as a finance expert.. From The Guardian and reporter Jon Swaine, who broke the Hannity story yesterday:

The shell companies used to buy the properties are registered to the offices of Henssler Financial, a wealth management firm outside Atlanta. Bill Lako, a principal at the firm, has appeared on Hannity’s radio show as an expert on money issues.

Lako recently wrote an article for the show’s website berating Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating ties between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia, without noting his ties to Hannity. He did not respond to an email. . . .

The list of properties bought by the Hannity-linked companies includes multimillion-dollar homes used by Hannity. It also features single-family units priced as low as $50,000 in relatively poor suburbs. In at least two cases, batches of homes were bought simultaneously at a discount, after they were repossessed by banks from their previous owners in foreclosure proceedings.

The entire portfolio connected to Hannity comprises at least 877 residential units, which were bought for a total of just under $89m. Another seven properties bought by the companies over recent years have subsequently been sold for more than $4m, according to public records.

How do shell companies enter the picture? An article at Fortune explains:

According to documents reviewed by The Guardian, Hannity bought real estate through more than 20 shell companies registered in Georgia. A shell company is a vehicle used to hold assets and can help beneficiaries remain anonymous. They are not in themselves illegal, though they are sometimes used to conduct illegal activities such as tax evasion. There is no indication that Hannity is engaged in any illegal practices, but he is the hidden owner behind at least some of the 20 companies through which he has bought property. In his case, it appears the shell companies were used to limit his liabilities in the real estate deals in question.

As is typical for a conservative, Hannity took advantage of others' struggles. He helped build a fortune on the collapsing U.S. economy that the failed GOP administration of George W. Bush ushered in -- a presidency that Hannity enthusiastically supported. From Fortune:

Despite his criticism of President Obama over the U.S. foreclosure rate, Hannity was an apparent beneficiary of the high number of foreclosures that accompanied and followed the great recession. In 2013 he purchased homes at a discount after their previous owners lost them to foreclosure. The Guardian reports he bought dozens of homes this way.

No wonder Hannity loved the Bush years. He made millions off the administration's failed policies, and then tried to blame it on President Obama, who pulled the country out of a potential economic disaster.

If you experienced an Alabama foreclosure in recent years, especially since 2013, we urge you to follow the Hannity story closely. With FBI agents recently seizing records from the office of Michael Cohen, attorney for both Donald Trump and Sean Hannity, more information about Hannity's real-estate holdings is likely to surface. And it might not be pretty.

As for our own foreclosure, we don't know if it has any ties to Hannity's wheeling and dealing. But it fits the profile of the properties that have been reported about so far -- especially when evidence suggests that our foreclosure was driven by those who saw me, and my journalism, as a threat to their political well-being. It was, without a doubt, a political hit -- and Sean Hannity is a political opportunist posing as a talk-show host on Fox News.

Here is the key questions for us, and we encourage targets of Alabama foreclosures over the past five years or so to keep it in mind: Were the foreclosures involving Sean Hannity's shell companies lawfully conducted? Did firms with ties to Hannity engage in wrongful foreclosure to essentially steal properties at bargain-basement rates from the rightful owners? Did the firms target individuals (such as Carol and me) who were seen as political opponents of Hannity and his right-wing friends?


(To be continued)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Right-wing fruit loops Diamond and Silk head to Capitol Hill to whine about the same "social-media filtering" Facebook uses against my progressive blog


Diamond and Silk, with their hero.
Two black women from North Carolina, who frequently express their undying devotion to Donald Trump online, have become a cause celebre among conservatives by claiming Facebook discriminates against their right-wing views. Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson -- professionally known as Diamond and Silk -- even are scheduled to testify Thursday before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on the subject of "social-media filtering."

Diamond and Silk are mostly a poor attempt at low-brow humor and attention-grabbing, so it's hard to figure what the judiciary committee hopes to accomplish with their testimony. But Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), a former auctioneer from my current district in Missouri, is pushing their act -- and Long never has been confused with a statesman or a policy wonk. If Billy Long is involved, you can bet the whole thing is a charade. Our guess is that Diamond and Silk's issues have everything to do with trolls and nothing to do with discrimination.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently testified before Congress in what was supposed to be a serious inquiry into the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and related issues. Billy Long helped turn it into a clown show by asking Zuckerberg about Diamond and Silk. Zuckerberg, apparently realizing that Long is what passes for "leadership" in the postmodern Republican Party, gave a serious answer, as reported at NPR:

Just days before Zuckerberg was slated to testify before key House and Senate congressional committees last week, Diamond and Silk alerted their followers on Facebook that their content was being suppressed by Zuckerberg's massive social media platform. . . .

The conservative website Drudge Report splashed it as a top story. Conservative Twitter accounts lit up with concern.

" 'BOOM' Diamond And Silk make the Drudge Report........ Don't start none, won't be none!" the partnership wrote on their Facebook page.

And then came the hearings where Zuckerberg faced Congress. . . .

"What is unsafe about two black women supporting President Donald J. Trump?" asked Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo. . . .

The CEO told lawmakers that any efforts to limit the duo's reach was an "enforcement error" on the part of the Facebook team but did not detail what Facebook had done — or why.

Diamond and Silk's main point seems to be that Facebook makes stupid decisions that result in censoring and blocking only those with right-wing views. That's a crock of barnyard excrement; I know from firsthand experience that Facebook makes the same dumb decisions against users on the left as it does against users on the right . In fact, Facebook takes progressive bloggers who write about serious subjects -- such as police brutality -- and blocks their links by deeming them "spam" and "unsafe."

I know because it's happened to me twice in the past month. The gist of Diamond and Silk's complaint, which they are taking to Capitol Hill, is that Facebook "limits the reach" of their right-wing views.. But the same "unsafe" label has been applied to my blog, Legal Schnauzer -- twice in the past month. In fact, as I write this, I'm still in "Facebook Jail" -- with my blog link blocked so that it can't be shared via links on Facebook.

Is my reach being limited? It sure as heck is -- and I'm about as far from a conservative as you can get; I wouldn't say a positive word about Donald Trump if someone tried to force me at gunpoint. Also, I'm not just a second-rate "comedy" act. I'm a journalist, with a B.J. degree from the University of Missouri and more than 35 years of professional experience -- with a daily newspaper, magazines, institutional publications, broadcasts, you name it.

Legal Schnauzer has been ranked among the top 50 law blogs in North America by Cision, a Chicago-based Web marketing and research firm. My blog, at No. 37, was the only one on the list that is truly independent -- not affiliated with any law firm, law school, legal organization, media outlet, or social-justice organization. In short, Legal Schnauzer has been ranked by a company, which deals with such issues on a daily basis, as the best blog of its kind in the United States and Canada.

Facebook's treatment of our progressive blog has been so outlandish that we recently asked (only slightly in a joking manager) if the company supports police brutality. After that post, we were out of Facebook Jail for roughly one working day, and then went right back in. We are considering a lawsuit against Facebook and the individuals attacking the blog if the problem is not corrected, pronto.

Why the question about police brutality? In September 2015, I watched deputies brutalize my wife, Carol, and break her arm during an eviction in Springfield, Missouri, which was unlawful on at least 12 grounds. I've published X-rays that show the comminuted fracture (broken in more than two places), plus photos taken about an hour after the incident that show the beginnings of severe bruising that eventually would cover Carol's left arm (plus the right arm, which was not broken but was black and purple for its full length, thanks to police-imposed violence.)

Carol Shuler's broken arm, a photo that Facebook
deemed "unsafe".
Roughly eight hours of trauma surgery was required to repair Carol's arm, and she is expected to regain, at most, 75- to 80- percent usage. It will never be the same. During the whole process, Carol faced a number of complications -- shock, blood loss, nerve damage, elevated pressures -- that could have been life threatening.

Unbelievably, Greene County prosecuting attorney Dan Patterson brought bogus "assault of a law enforcement officer" charges against Carol, an obvious "cover charge" designed to impede her pursuit of civil damages.

Issues don't come much more serious than the ones surrounding Carol's broken arm. But when I have reported on the subject, including photos of the arm just before X-rays revealed the break, Facebook has deemed my blog "unsafe" -- and my blog URL remains blocked. Diamond and Silk, with their goofy comedy routine about the most dangerous and incompetent president in our history, think they have problems with Facebook? Let's consider a timeline regarding the Legal Schnauzer case:

* 3/26/18 -- I write a post about Carol's cop-induced injuries, including photos of her broken arm;

* 4/6/18 -- After 10 days in Facebook Jail (our blog URL is blocked), we are deemed "safe" for the free world again.

* 4/9/18 -- After roughly one working day out of jail, we wind up back in jail after another post (featuring photos) about Carol's cop-induced injuries.

* 4/23/18 -- As I write this, our second stint in Facebook Jail has lasted 14 days. Combined with the earlier 10-day "jail sentence," we've had our reach limited for 24 days in less than a month.

What is happening in our case? The answer seems clear: Conservative, pro-cop trolls (many of whom probably are cops, perhaps using taxpayer-funded resources) have reported my posts to Facebook as "spam" in an effort to interfere with our reporting. The company apparently takes the word of trolls, people who intentionally abuse Facebook rules, and blocks targets without any investigation. Does that make sense? Not one lick, but that almost certainly explains our situation, and it probably explains the Diamond and Silk issue, too.

Are liberal trolls reporting Diamond and Silk as spam? I haven't seen that issue raised in news reports from across the country, but my guess is that the answer is yes.

If liberals are acting as trolls, it's wrong, and I don't support it -- even though I think Diamond and Silk's speech has about the same intellectual worth of a dried cow turd. Facebook should go about identifying the trolls and punishing THEM, instead of imposing restrictions on Diamond and Silk. Facebook should take the same action in my case.

Thousands of taxpayer dollars will be spent so that Diamond and Silk can go to Congress and whine about Facebook's discrimination against their right-wing views. In truth, the whole contretemps almost certainly has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with Facebook's silly policies -- and it's inability to deal with trolls, of all political colors.

Below is a video of Diamond and Silk, attacking broadcast journalist Megyn Kelly after she had the audacity to ask Donald Trump during a presidential debate about vile, rude, and sexist comments he had made about women over the years. As you can tell, Diamond and Silk have no respect for their own race or their gender.

That kind of Uncle Tomism must be a big hit among white, postmodern conservatives.




Thursday, April 19, 2018

Newly obtained photograph shows Carol could not have broken her own arm -- and deputies started shaping their bogus story the morning after her injury


The back seat of a patrol car, where Carol was placed after Missouri
deputies had beaten her and broken her arm. (Notice part of the
seat-belt system at left.)

Sheriff's deputies, first thing the next morning, started concocting a false story to cover up the police brutality that caused my wife's broken arm, a newly obtained photograph shows.

The photograph is part of  limited discovery prosecutors have produced in the bogus "assault on a law enforcement officer" case Carol has been fighting for 14 months. Prosecutors mostly have stonewalled on Carol's discovery requests, producing responses like "we're not aware of that existing" or "we haven't been able to find that."

Despite the stonewalling, we've received evidence that reveals a lot about the brutality and dishonesty that seem to be part of the modern cop's DNA. We reported recently on photos -- taken at a hospital emergency room roughly an hour after Carol's arm was broken and she was hauled to jail -- that show the early signs of how badly Carol was injured. Two photos show the beginning of severe bruising, along with a baseball-size lump that likely was caused by the pooling of blood and a broken bone that was pushing against skin. 

The photos apparently are so unsettling to cop trolls that they've filed false reports to Facebook that my posts are "spam" or "unsafe," causing my blog URL to be blocked. This has happened twice in the past month -- both times on posts that include photos of Carol's broken arm -- and it takes 10 days or so to get the matter resolved. If the problem continues, I'm considering a lawsuit against Facebook and the trolls responsible for these abusive tactics.

Back to the photos of Carol's injuries, taken while she was in custody. What was Carol, the obvious victim of a police assault, doing in jail? She was there because Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott was on the scene and stood about five feet away as three of his officers surrounded Carol and one slammed her viciously to the ground and yanked on her limbs. Perhaps sensing this was police brutality that might have produced a serious injury, Arnott started the cover-up by pointing at Carol and saying, "She assaulted a law-enforcement officer." I saw all of this happen from the front seat of our car in the driveway of our duplex apartment, about 15-20 feet away.

How gross is the corruption that Arnott set in motion? The photograph at the top helps tell the story. It was taken of the backseat of a squad car where Carol was placed for transport to jail, after her arm had been broken and Arnott had fingered her for a bogus criminal charge.

It is a simple picture, not artsy in the least. But it reveals a couple of key points that point to the beginnings of police corruption -- a cover-up, if you will:

(1) On the left side of the photo, you see part of the vehicle's seat-belt system. It shows a strap running downward from the top of the seat, with a buckle at the bottom of the strap. Another part of the seat-belt system likely is out of view -- on the other side of where a suspect would sit -- with both parts used to secure the suspect in the back seat. Bottom line? Carol was placed in a vehicle equipped with what appears to be a modern and high-end seat-belt system.

(2) The photograph is time stamped at 8:34 a.m. on 9/10/15.

Let's start with No. 2 and see what that tells us. As we recently reported, Carol complained of severe pain in her left arm, and a jail nurse ordered that she be taken to the emergency room at nearby Cox North Medical Center. Deputy Scott Harrison took photos of Carol's injuries, and they are time stamped between 15:01 hours (3:01 p.m. on 9/9/15) and 16:09 hours (4:09 p.m. on 9/9/15). Shortly after that, Carol's arm was X-rayed, showing a comminuted fracture, and she was transported to Cox South, where her left arm was placed in a temporary cast in preparation for trauma surgery.

The beginnings of severe bruising in photo taken about
one hour after Missouri cops had broken Carol's arm.
The X-rays are time stamped between 5 and 6 p.m on 9/9/15., so by early evening, Harrison knew Carol's arm was broken -- and he almost certainly knew how it was broken, and by whom. Carol said she could see him feverishly texting information to someone. We don't know the content of those texts because they have not been produced in discovery, but our guess is they went something like this:

"Holy shit, we've got a problem! Officer ________ broke that woman's arm! Worst of all, there goes my pension!!!" 

So what does the time stamp in item No. 2 tell us. It shows that bright and early the next morning, at 8:34 a.m. on 9/10/15, someone had concocted a phony story of Carol hurting herself by flailing about in the backseat -- and the photo was a sorry effort to document that.

We've reported before about the cops' theory, stated in their incident-report notes, that Carol must have injured herself because, Lord knows, cops never hurt anybody. This is from Officer Debi Wade's written report:

Once she was detained in the back of the car, Deputy Harrison retrieved her [Missouri] ID from her purse, and then gave the purse to Mr. Shuler. Mr. Shuler was asked to leave the scene so that the movers could get to work. He sat in his car across the street, refusing to leave the area while we allowed the movers in the house and turned the keys over to them. When I walked past the patrol car a couple of minutes later, Carol was screaming and jerking her body all over the back seat and cage of the car very violently.

We've shown that Wade's story -- and similar ones from other officers -- is a load of crap. For one, Carol was seat-belted into the vehicle, using the system you can see in the photograph at top. Two, Carol's medical records show her injuries are inconsistent with the cops' fantasy story. In short, it's not possible to inflict such severe injuries on yourself by flailing about in the back seat of a patrol car. From our post on the subject:

A comminuted fracture is a break or splinter of the bone into more than two fragments. Since considerable force and energy is required to fragment bone, fractures of this degree occur after high-impact trauma such as in vehicular accidents.

External fixation devices such as splints and casts are usually inadequate in treating this type of fracture. Repairing a comminuted fracture often requires open surgery to restructure the bone to normal anatomy.

Can a person, in the tiny cage depicted in the photograph, generate enough force and energy to produce a comminuted fracture -- one that put Carol at threat of shock, blood loss, nerve damage, kidney damage, and elevated pressures, according to medical records? Of course not.

An X-ray of Carol's broken arm shows a bone
fragment almost breaking through the skin, perhaps
stopped only by pooling blood in the dark area
at right.
But the time stamp above shows that Jim Arnott's minions started working on that bogus story first thing the morning after they had learned of Carol's broken arm.

As for Point No. 1, the use of (or lack of use) of seat belts in police transports has become the source of lawsuits across the nation. One such lawsuit is Brown v. Missouri Department of Corrections, where a prisoner was injured in a vehicle crash when he was not secured with a seat belt. A Department of Transportation reported titled "Legal Issues Regarding Police and Seat Belts" provides data and analysis of the issue. This is from a July 2017 LS post:

If you Google "prisoner transport and seat belts," you will find there has been litigation around the country about instances where prisoners or suspects were injured after officers failed to secure them with seat belts. (See here, here, and here.) Police agencies have paid out lots of money for failing to secure individuals riding in the back of patrol cars.

Our research indicates many police agencies have adopted policies that require officers to use seat belts whenever transporting prisoners or suspects. This is from page 745 of the policies and procedures manual of the Springfield (Mo.) Police Department, which is available online:

All prisoners transported in a police car shall be secured with a seat belt for their safety.

There is little doubt that the Greene County manual, which has not been produced in discovery, requires deputies to place prisoners or suspects in a seat belt. And Carol was, in fact, seat-belted into the back seat.

Is that all we've learned from recently obtained photographs? Nope. We have one more that helps reveal the brutality that was used against Carol.


(To be continued)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Ashley Madison customers revealed: James M. Bookout, top administrator for finance and business affairs at Troy U, appears at notorious Web site


James Bookout
A high-ranking administrator at Troy University appears as a paying customer on the Alabama list at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, according to publicly available records.

James M. Bookout, senior vice chancellor for finance and business affairs, has been a major figure at Troy for 15 years. What does his office do? This is from the university Web site:

The mission of the Office of Finance and Business Affairs at Troy University (comprising the Troy, Montgomery, Dothan and Phenix City campuses) is to deliver an array of support services to students, faculty and staff that contribute to the enhancement and delivery of the University's academic programs and student programs and activities essential to the educational experience of the University. Through a highly-trained and service-oriented staff, the Office of Finance and Business Affairs is committed to embrace change and focus on responsiveness in support of the University's mission.

Bookout joined Troy's administrative team in 2003, as vice chancellor of financial affairs. Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr. appointed Bookout to his current position in 2008. From an article at Troy University Magazine:

Mr. Bookout joined Troy University’s administrative team in October 2003 as Vice Chancellor for Financial Affairs. In his new role, Bookout also takes on new business responsibilities including Auxiliary Services, Facilities and Capital Planning, Dining Services and the Athletics Business Office. He will report directly to the Chancellor.

“Jim Bookout is an outstanding leader and I have no doubt he will excel in his new role,” Chancellor Hawkins said. “Troy University prides itself on efficiency and good stewardship. Mr. Bookout understands how to return the maximum service for every dollar we invest. He is the right man at the right time.”

The 2008 magazine article also shined light on Bookout's background:

Bookout, a native of Chipley, FL, is a CPA and holds a bachelor’s degrees in business management from the University of West Florida and accounting from Florida State University, as well as a master’s degree from Boston University. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Alabama.

Bookout's marital status is not clear. Property records show that he lives at 503 Flavia Circle in Troy's Ridgewood subdivision, and the property has an appraised value of $260,800.

Property records from 2013 show that Alicia G. Bookout sold the Flavia Circle property -- or her share in it -- for $262,770 to  James M. Bookout. It appears they were married and lived at that property before getting a divorce somewhere around 2013. We don't have access to full AlaCourt.com records, but it appears there was a divorce, and Ms. Bookout moved to a property in Destin, Florida, at least for a while. It's not clear if the couple has children, but a Brent Bookout works as an HR manager for Troy University Dining Services.

We sought comment from James M. Bookout for this post, but he has not responded to our queries.


Previously:


Article with links to 1-40 in Ashley Madison series

(41) David Armistead, director of enterprise sales, TekLinks, Birmingham (10/19/17)

(42) William House, VP and controller, HealthSouth, Birmingham (10/26/17)

(43) Olin B. Barnes III, VP, One Resource Group, Birmingham (11/1/17)

(44) T.J. Bunn Jr., ST Bunn Construction, Tuscaloosa (11/2/17)

(45) Todd Deffenbaugh, VP and controller, Express Oil Change, Birmingham (11/6/17)

(46) Richard D. Crites, lawyer and reserve deputy, Springfield, MO (11/13/17)

(47) Mark C. Trudeau, CEO, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, St. Louis, MO (11/15/17)

(48) Peter Blasi, lawyer, Evans Blasi, St. Louis, MO (11/16/17)

(49) Todd Wiesehan, director of resource management, Christian Co., MO (11/22/17)

(50) Spencer Desai, lawyer, Carmody MacDonald, St. Louis, MO (11/27/17)

(51) Johnny Aycock, assistant to the president, University of West Alabama (12/19/17)

(52) Chris McIntyre, district judge, Calhoun County, AL (1/3/18)

(53) William W. Smith, lawyer, Smith and Alspaugh, Birmingham (1/10/18)

(54) Jake Reinbold, lawyer, Turner Reid Law Firm, Springfield, MO (1/11/18)

(55) Chevene Hill, lawyer, Birmingham (2/15/18)

Nicholas Jain discusses his candidacy in Dunklin County, MO, but makes no mention of the drunk-driving conviction that lurks in his background


Nicholas Jain (fourth from left) at a gathering of
Republican candidates in Dunklin County, MO.
Nicholas Jain, Missouri's notorious drunk-driving prosecutor, is running for prosecuting  attorney (PA) of Dunklin County. We've reported on Jain's likely plans for several weeks -- even before he left his job as assistant PA in Greene County -- and the Delta Dunklin County Democrat newspaper recently made it official.

The Democrat reports that Jain will run against Republican incumbent Jeff McCormick. From an article titled "Republican candidates speak at Lincoln Day Banquet":

Nicholas Jain, who is also seeking the position of Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney, addressed the group. Jain is a native of Kennett and after law school moved to Springfield where he joined the Green County prosecuting attorney’s office, specializing in domestic violence, driving while intoxicated and white-collar crimes. “I’m running because I want to prosecute tough and smart, support law enforcement, and I want to work tirelessly to fight crime in Dunklin County,” said Jain. “I want to apply all of the things I learned in Springfield to work here in Dunklin County.” He explained how working closely with law enforcement to the point of going through training, DUI testing, and child forensics improves his ability to ask the best questions. He said being accessible to the victims is one of the biggest assets to successful prosecution. “I promise that if I’m elected prosecutor, I will work as hard as I can to do the best job that I can,” he said. “I’m asking you for your vote and I’m asking you for your trust as the next prosecutor for Dunklin County.”

Hmmm . . . Jain mentions that he worked on drunk-driving cases and even went through training for DUI testing. But no mention of his own DUI conviction, which we've reported in considerable detail. Surely, Jain meant to mention that to the law-abiding Republicans in his home county, so it must have just slipped his mind. Perhaps someone needs to notify the press and political figures in Dunklin County about the DUI skeleton in Jain's extra-wide closet.

Here is information about Jain's opponent:

Prosecuting Attorney Jeff McCormick, who is seeking a second term for Dunklin County, spoke to the group. With over 15 years of legal experience, McCormick during his time as Prosecuting Attorney has prosecuted over 5,000 criminal cases and hopes to continue to serve Dunklin County. At 44 years old, McCormick said of the Democrat party, “The party of what I thought I was, left.” Being from Missouri, he said he has always held conservative values, and it was not a giant leap from one to the other. “The values of this party are absolutely the values I have always had and what represents me,” declared McCormick. “This is where I wanted to be…for the first time, no matter what, in the next election cycle, Dunklin County will have the first Republican prosecutor that it has ever had.” McCormick praised [county GOP chair Tammy] Gibson for her work in expanding the party and being the driving force behind it. “It is nice to be a part of this party and to have things that are occurring, to be on the move, and taking a step forward all the time.” He then asked for everyone’s vote and the opportunity to serve again.

Let's note a few curious items in Jain's statement:

(1) He says one of his goals is to "support law enforcement." That's what a prosecuting attorney is supposed to do? I thought the job entailed seeking justice, on behalf of all citizens in the county. What if law enforcement acts corruptly in a particular case, as we've seen they can do in Greene County. Is Jain's job still to "support law enforcement." What if cops in his area are so corrupt that THEY need to be prosecuted? Does Jain apply the law or "support law enforcement"?

(2) Jain says he wants to apply what he learned in Springfield? Does that include bringing cases where probable cause clearly is lacking? He's done that on multiple occasions in Greene County, as we've reported several times. From a recent LS post:

Along with his boss, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson, Jain showed quite a knack for bringing criminal charges without probable cause. He did it in the "assault on a law enforcement officer" case involving my wife, Carol, and our unlawful eviction in September 2015. He did it again in a DUI case involving Springfield resident Charles Hollis Roux. In fact, trial judge Margaret Palmietto granted the defense's motion to suppress in the Roux matter, tossing the case for lack of probable cause.

Jain and Patterson appealed, and the Missouri Court of Appeals went against its own precedent to overrule Palmietto and force Roux to trial on April 26. He pleaded guilty to two minor vehicle-related infractions, and Palmietto took the DUI matter under advisement.

All kinds of issues likely will be discussed in the Dunklin County PA race over the next few months. But you can rest assured Nicholas Jain does not want his DUI conviction to be one of them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Ozark Mountains are alive with the smell of high-quality, expensive weed from Colorado and other states where marijuana is legal and easily available


Noah Hayes Shuler and Aubrynne Russell
Marijuana has become a prime subject here at Legal Schnauzer, thanks mainly to the legal travails of my nephew, Noah Hayes Shuler -- the son of my lawyer-brother David Shuler.

While researching the MJ issue recently, we came across an article about the changing drug culture here in the Missouri Ozarks. It seems the region once was known for low-quality, inexpensive weed that tended to arrive from Mexico. That's not the case anymore, as this article from 2015 explains:

It was only a few years ago when undercover narcotics officers could set up a dealer on the cheap — only $1,000 for a pound of marijuana.

Today, to bust a drug dealer for that same amount of weight, they expect to pay up to six-times that.

Dan Banasik, a Missouri State Highway Patrol supervising sergeant for narcotics, said the Springfield market has been inundated with high-grade marijuana from Colorado and other states where the drug is legal.

“We’ve seen a large increase in that,” Banasik said. “Since it is legal there, I don’t believe the enforcement is as tough.”

Banasik said the marijuana coming from Colorado is a much higher quality than the Mexican weed that was most common in Springfield a decade ago. He said the product from Colorado has much higher levels of THC — the main active ingredient in marijuana — meaning it takes less of the drug to achieve a stronger high.

So, a "Rocky Mountain High" now can be had in the Ozarks. But it comes with extra potency and a serious price hike, both of which could be troublesome for users:

Banasik said the more potent marijuana has driven up the price of the drug in Springfield. But while that may be good news for dealers in town, local experts say the recent infusion of potent marijuana could be trouble.

Mark Wood, chemistry professor at Drury University, said marijuana works by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. He said those neurotransmitters play a role in just about everything — including fear, pleasure, hunger, smell, vision and pain.

Wood said the higher the THC level in marijuana, the bigger the impact the drug has on those neurotransmitters in the brain.

“Anytime you increase the active ingredient in something, you are going to get a bigger effect,” Wood said. “If there is an addictive effect or a negative effect, it is going to be bigger.”

That takes us back to Noah Hayes Shuler. He lives at the Millwood golf-course community near Ozark, MO, in a house appraised at more than $621,000. That means he likely can afford the good stuff from Colorado, or some other state where MJ is legal.

Colorado weed -- the expensive kind
For his recent possession-of-drug-paraphernalia case, Noah was described in the police report as owner of a rubber MJ pipe and three mostly empty sandwich bags -- all containing marijuana residue. How did all three baggies become empty at the same time? One answer might be that someone dumped the weed in the car when police lights were spotted in the rear-view mirror. A Sparta, MO, cop on the scene did not search the vehicle, driven by Noah's girlfriend (Aubrynne Russell), so we likely will never know.

Here are three other questions, with elusive answers:

* What kind of weed was in Noah's baggies? Was it the expensive kind from Colorado, which now seems to be the rage on the Ozarks scene -- especially among those who can afford it?

* If Noah had been smoking the MJ the officer smelled -- and it was the highly potent kind -- how high was Noah at the time of the traffic stop?

* If all three baggies once were full, that means Noah possessed at least three ounces of weed. Our research indicates that is way more than a casual user typically would have. Whether Noah was using (which the pipe suggests) or dealing (which the three baggies suggest), how much did the weed cost, and where did Noah get it?

Finally, why has Noah's drug case disappeared from the public record at case.net? A reader recently suggested prosecutors might have offered Noah a soft sentence (and a hidden record) if he turned into a confidential informant -- also known as a snitch -- to help nail others on drug charges.

We don't know if that's the case, but it certainly would explain some oddities surrounding Noah's case.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A lawsuit against Facebook -- revealing the identity of trolls who have attacked my blog -- might be a way to fight back and extract serious cash from thug cops


The notice we've put on Facebook regarding troll
attacks that have caused Legal Schnauzer URL to be blocked
as "spam" and "unsafe."

For the second time in less than a month, I am in "Facebook Jail," apparently because pro-police trolls have reported certain blog posts about my wife Carol's broken arm (courtesy of Missouri cops) as "spam" and "unsafe." The bogus spam complaints have caused Facebook to block the Legal Schnauzer URL, meaning those who follow me on Facebook cannot go via a link directly to the blog.

When this happened last month, it took about 10 days to resolve. It looks like it will take 10 days or more to resolve it this time. That is irritating to me and my readers -- and one reader had an idea that just might put a stop to it.

The reader suggested that I sue Facebook. At first, I laughed that idea off. If I was able to secure the services of a lawyer who wanted to take on the social-media giant, that might be one thing. But for me to do it myself, on a pro se basis? Well, that seemed like a Quixotical task, given the way courts love to cheat individuals who represent themselves.

But I've decided the idea might have merit, with or without a lawyer. For one, I've repeatedly explained to Facebook that my posts are not spam, and they are tied to a secure URL, so they aren't "unsafe" either. I've encouraged the company to eye the trolls who are causing the problem and punish them, perhaps by throwing them in Facebook Jail. Those entreaties seem to have fallen on deaf ears, which could lead to a valid legal claim against Facebook -- perhaps for negligence, wantonness, or more.

We have not gotten, however, to what might be the good part. Part of a lawsuit against Facebook could be, via discovery, to force the company to turn over the names of trolls who are causing this malicious action against me. With the names of the trolls in hand, I could add them to the lawsuit and try to hit them where it hurts -- in the pocketbook.

If Missouri cops or their associates are behind this -- and I have little doubt they are -- taking a big chunk out of their paychecks might be quite a treat indeed. The trolls could be hit for tortious interference, for sure, and perhaps other claims.

If it's proven that cops are using public resources (computers, phones, etc.) for their own personal amusement (to facilitate harassment of a blogger), it could lead to an investigation on possible violations of ethics law -- and it could cost several coppers their jobs.

A lawsuit might be a way to drop some serious hell on the heads of thug cops who deserve to be outed and punished. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

My nephew, Noah Hayes Shuler, was not guilty in wild-ass speeding case in January, but suddenly became guilty in April. How did that happen?


Noah Shuler and Aubrynne Russell
My nephew, Noah Hayes Shuler, has seen his wild-ass speeding case (being clocked at 88 mph in a 60 zone) resolved -- with a plea of guilty, six months of probation, and a fine of $90.50. The offense to which he pleaded guilty is the equivalent in Missouri of a DUI -- which carries possible punishment of up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000 -- so it's clear Noah received softball treatment, even though he also had a possession-of-drug-paraphernalia charge pending when the speeding case first was set to be heard.

That presents this question: Why was Noah "not guilty" when he entered a plea back in January -- the speeding incident happened in May 2017, but was not listed as a court case until late October -- but he suddenly became guilty on April 6?

Public documents suggest the answer is that Noah's father, my lawyer-brother David Shuler, pulled a con game to help his son achieve a soft landing while he had three court cases pending at one time. That David Shuler would engage in a con certainly is no surprise, given the evidence we've uncovered in recent weeks that he has acted with repugnant deceit toward Carol and me. In short, evidence suggests David helped arrange our unlawful eviction, his actions regarding a 911 call (that I did not make) damned near got us killed, and he played a huge role in Carol's arm being broken. (Details in upcoming posts.)

How did David Shuler game a system that is broken beyond repair to begin with? It couldn't have been hard, when you are a lawyer with a kid who can't stay out of trouble, and many members of the legal tribe are known for protecting their own -- while screwing the general public at every opportunity.

Noah's case presents powerful proof that our pleading system in criminal cases is a dysfunctional, steaming pile of cow feces. During the course of a court case, individuals who "swear falsely" (under oath) can be subject to criminal charges in the form of perjury. But the same individuals can enter a false plea -- David Shuler likely knew his son was guilty in the speeding case -- and get away with it.

Curious timing was everywhere in the Noah matter -- and that's because he was facing multiple charges, in separate cases, at roughly the same time. Let's follow the docket trail:

* May 22, 2017 -- a state trooper clocks Noah driving up to 88 mph in a 60 zone on U.S. 65 near Springfield, MO.

* October 28, 2017 -- the case appears in public records as a court matter. Why the delay of more than five months? Our guess is that Noah was hoping the case would go away and did not tell his parents, and they likely got clued in when a piece of court mail arrived at the residence.

* December 19, 2017 -- Noah is set for arraignment, but David Shuler (acting as his son's lawyer) was granted a continuance.

* January 17, 2018 -- The arraignment is held, and David Shuler enters a plea of "not guilty."

Let's catch our breath and remember that date -- Jan. 17, 2018. That's when Noah, according to his lawyer/father, was not guilty.

But let's consider another key date -- Dec. 30, 2017. That's when a cop in Sparta, MO, pulled Noah and girlfriend Aubrynne Russell over (she was driving and charged with speeding), with Noah found in possession of drug paraphernalia.

David Shuler almost certainly knew about the drug charge when he entered the "not guilty" plea in the speeding case on Jan. 17, 2018. But that's just the first sign of gaming. The next came on March 7, 2018, when a hearing was set in the speeding case, and David again asked for a continuance -- this time, the hearing was reset for April 6, 2018, Friday before last.

Was there a legitimate reason for the continuance? The answer probably is no. David Shuler likely knew two things: (1) Noah was going to have to plead guilty in the speeding case; it's pretty hard to prove your innocence when a trooper has clocked you driving at 28 mph above the speed limit; (2) The drug-paraphernalia case still was hanging out there and could lead to a tougher sentence for Noah in the speeding matter.

I don't claim to be an expert on the criminal side of our "justice system," but my research indicates it's not a good idea to get a new charge -- particularly a drug-related matter -- while another charge is pending. Prosecutors, if there are any real ones in Missouri, can ask for tougher sentences in such circumstances. And Judge Jerry Harmison might have become inclined to issue more than a wrist slap in the speeding case.

Our guess is that David Shuler asked for the continuance on 3/7 because he knew the drug matter had not been resolved. We're still not sure it's been resolved -- a hearing was set for April 12 (last Thursday, in Sparta Municipal Court), but the record disappeared from case.net on or about March 8, one day after David asked for a continuance in the speeding case.

Did that keep prosecutors and Judge Harmison from even knowing about the drug case -- and help Noah get softball treatment that he likely did not deserve?  The answer probably is yes.

David Shuler makes good money, but we've seen substantial evidence that suggests he's not much of a lawyer. Early in his career, David did quite a bit of criminal-defense work, but he wound up with a legal-malpractice case that paints a disparaging assessment of his legal skills.

Attending the University of Missouri School of Law might not make you much of an attorney, but it apparently provides you with enough knowledge of procedural matters that you can easily con a court and give your ne'er-do-well kid a soft landing.

Impressive.

(Note: While Noah Shuler's drug paraphernalia case has disappeared from case.net, the speeding charge against his girlfriend, Aubrynne Russell, remains in plain sight, for anyone to see -- 160572245, CITY OF SPARTA V AUBRYNNE LAINE RUSSELL. A hearing for her was set on April 12 (the same date as Noah's was set), but attorney Russell Dempsey (the same attorney Noah had) asked for a continuance, and a new hearing date has not been set. Why does Ms. Russell's speeding charge remain visible to the public, while Noah Shuler's drug-related charge has disappeared? Is she being treated differently from the son of a local lawyer? Is that "justice" in the Missouri Ozarks?)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Environmental racism in Alabama is driven by "good ole boy network," fueled by dirty cash and corrupt machinations of Jeff Sessions and Luther Strange


North Birmingham Superfund cleanup

The North Birmingham Superfund scandal is a classic case of environmental racism -- driven by "a good ole boy network littered with sketchy cash" -- according to a new report from an online magazine about African-American culture. Two well-known corporate entities in Birmingham -- Alabama Power and Southern Company -- are right in the middle of the scandal, but so far have managed to keep a respectful distance from the fallout.

In a piece titled "Eau de Bull, Again: Good Ole Boys Have ‘No Concerns About Anything Inappropriate’ in Environmental-Racism Case," The Root points to Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions and Luther Strange, both former U.S. senators, as key figures in a white network that consistently tramples the rights of black residents in low-income neighborhoods. The network largely revolves, the report states, around Drummond Co. and the Balch Bingham law firm.

Four people -- two Balch lawyers, one Drummond executive, and former State Rep. Oliver Robinson -- have been indicted and entered not-guilty pleas. But The Root says other key players have been kept under wraps, to this point. From the article:

In September, Robinson entered a plea deal. To reduce the 100 years in prison he faced from seven federal offenses, Robinson confessed as to who, what, how and which angle of bent he found most comfortable while taking bribes. Two Balch lawyers, Joel Gilbert and Steven McKinney, and one Drummond vice president were indicted on counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States, bribery, wire fraud and money laundering. All three have pleaded not guilty.

But the buck doesn’t stop here. Rather, its tracks drunkenly meander out into a good ole boy network littered with sketchy cash.

Only people from Balch and Drummond have been indicted. However, they weren’t the only ones contributing to the nonprofit work from which Robinson siphoned profits. Another utility company represented by Balch -- Alabama Power, for example -- donated $30,000 to Robinson’s foundation in 2015.

Ah, Alabama Power, part of the Southern Company umbrella. Those corporate names will get anyone's attention in Birmingham. And The Root suggests they have received softball treatment in the Superfund case:

Alabama Power, a coal titan in and of itself, is a subsidiary of Southern Co., America’s second-largest utility. Both entities share more relations with Balch than sister-wives. Executives at Southern and Balch swap out like Pok√©mon cards. Their little black book of political donees is Old Testament-thick.

Just as an example: Balch was founded in the ’20s by the brother of Alabama Power’s president to focus on the latter’s legal affairs. Southern and Balch were Jeff Sessions’ biggest donors when he was an Alabama senator. When Sessions became attorney general, Jeffrey Wood -- who worked as Sessions’ environmental and energy counsel until going to lobby for Balch and Southern in 2014 -- was made head of the ENRD. When the Trump administration replaced the EPA director overseeing the 35th Avenue site, it picked Trey Glenn, an Alabama official who worked for Balch Bingham in 2016, to oversee the 35th Avenue site.

To have an affiliation with Balch or Southern is to be two -- at most -- degrees of separation from either a new job at the other company or a convenient position in the Trump administration.

The plot thickens as we see the Trump White House enter the fray. And The Root points to K.B. Forbes, publisher of the Web site banbalch.com and founder of Consejo de Latinos Unidos (CDLU). Forbes' reporting has focused heavily on an apparent conspiracy where Balch attorneys tried to steal the lucrative collections business established by Birmingham solo practitioner Burt Newsome. As we've reported earlier, Luther Strange's nasty fingerprints appear to be all over the attempted financial hit on Newsome.

Forbes recently interviewed a key Southern Company executive and found the company sees no reason to be concerned about the Superfund scandal. From The Root:

Cousin-loving nepotism and corrupt congressmen make for an interesting conflict-of-interest cocktail. But for those not sipping the Kool-Aid, Southern’s recent response to the advocacy group Consejo de Latinos Unidos tastes fishy.

K.B. Forbes, head of the CDLU, recently interviewed Southern’s general counsel, Jim Kerr. Forbes submitted a plan of action that Southern could take to wash its hands of Balch’s misdeeds in the Robinson scandal, including measures such as these: “Immediately conduct an internal top to bottom review of all partners and whose actions that may be unethical, criminal or unscrupulous. Fire all the bad apples regardless of tenure or seniority.”

Kerr responded, “We do not see a place to step into [the Robinson scandal].” That rings hollow considering that Wood, Balch’s point lobbyist for Southern, was lobbying on Superfund policy at the time on behalf of Southern. In fact, Wood has specifically recused himself from any matters at the ENRD pertaining to the 35th Avenue site, suggesting that he was specifically lobbying about the site. After Forbes pointed this out, Kerr took a long pause before going full Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “We reviewed the information. I have no concerns about anything inappropriate.”

When I asked Kerr about his comments, which Forbes surreptitiously recorded, I was referred to Southern’s media strategist Schuyler Baehman: “I can confirm that it is Jim Kerr in the conversation. Beyond that, we have no further comment.”

Southern may not have been indicted, but the company could be doing more to distance itself from a firm whose web of cash sticks to every facet of a conspiracy to disenfranchise poor blacks.

Talk of nepotism and corruption takes us back to Sessions and Strange:

Robinson aside, Balch ghost-wrote a letter from then-Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, which argued against the EPA’s proposal to expand the 35th Avenue site. Strange also wrote another letter, falsely stating that Alabama’s Department of Environmental Management’s initial assessment was that the 35th Avenue site shouldn’t be put on the National Priorities List.

That, of course, came after Drummond had slipped contributions of $25,000 and $50,000 to Strange. Was that a quid pro quo that would amount to federal-funds bribery and could send "Big Lutha" to the Big House? Sure sounds like it. Speaking of federal prison, let's not forget Jeff Sessions, who already is awash in the Trump-Russia scandal:

Mother Jones also discovered that a 2015 “Balch Bingham newsletter touted a meeting with Jeff Sessions to discuss the 35th Avenue site and predicted a letter, signed by top Alabama lawmakers, would shortly be sent to the EPA expressing concerns over the agency’s methodology when it came to assigning blame.” It was. Sessions and his staffer Brandon Middleton (who would later become Wood’s deputy at the ENRD) arranged meetings with EPA officials to argue against putting the 35th Avenue site on the NPL.

Now the funny part: Sessions ultimately oversees this corruption investigation. He’s been asked multiple time to recuse himself. He hasn’t acknowledged any such steps.

But hey, no need to be concerned about anything inappropriate.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Woman at the heart of ugly affair with Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens says he struck her, threatened her, shoved her to the ground, and called her a whore


Eric Greitens
A woman who had an extramarital affair with Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said she felt coerced into having sex, and he threatened to release a photo of her bound and blindfolded if she ever mentioned his name and the affair, according to a report released yesterday by the Missouri State House.

The woman also said Greitens struck her, touched her crotch without consent, and called her a whore.

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who once was considered a possible Republican presidential candidate, now faces heightened calls for his impeachment or resignation. From a report at CNN:

A Missouri state House committee released a graphic report Wednesday including lurid details of alleged conduct by Gov. Eric Greitens with a woman who testified under oath that Greitens subjected her to non-consensual sexual activity and violence.

The report could set the stage for impeachment proceedings against the embattled Republican governor, who already faces criminal invasion of privacy charges in addition to multiple ongoing probes.

The woman, whose name was concealed by the committee, said under oath that the governor staged and took a photo of her bound and blindfolded, and then threatened to release the photo, were she to disclose their encounter.

"You're not going to mention my name. Don't even mention my name to anybody at all, because if you do, I'm going to take these pictures, and I'm going to put them everywhere I can. They are going to be everywhere," he said, according to her testimony, "and then everyone will know what a little whore you are." The governor previously denied that he had ever blackmailed or threatened the woman.

The CNN report included graphic details about the woman's encounters with Greitens:

The woman testified that during their first sexual encounter, Greitens held his penis near her face as she was "uncontrollably crying." She said she felt coerced into oral sex, and agreed with the statement that she "didn't feel necessarily able to leave without performing oral sex" and feared for her "physical self."

In another meeting, the woman said Greitens asked her whether she had been sexually active with anyone else, including her husband. When she replied that she had, Greitens "slapped me across my face, just like hard," the woman said.

Stltoday.com also provided details about the ugly nature of Greitens' alleged actions:

During several sexual encounters with his hair stylist the year before he was elected Missouri's governor, Eric Greitens struck her in the face, touched her crotch without her consent and called her a "whore," the woman told a Missouri House committee, according to newly released documents.

The claims add disturbing new layers to the single criminal allegation Greitens faces — a felony invasion-of-privacy charge, for allegedly taking and transmitting a semi-nude photo of her without her consent.

In sworn testimony made March 7, the woman stood by that allegation, as presented in the House report released Wednesday afternoon. She also painted a broader picture of Greitens as a controlling, jealous lover for whom violence or the threat of it was an integral part of the affair.

Bullying was a major part of the relationship, according to the stltoday.com report:

During one encounter in the summer of 2015, the woman testified, Greitens struck her and shoved her to the ground as they became intimate in his Central West End home.

"And I instantly just started bawling and was just like, 'What is wrong with you? What is wrong with you?'" she told the committee. "And I just laid there crying while he was just like ... 'You're fine, you're fine.'"

During another encounter, she alleges, he physically restrained her from leaving his home and insisted she give him oral sex, even though she was crying.

Greitens reacted angrily to the report's release. From CNN:

Greitens, in a statement to reporters prior to the report's release Wednesday, called the investigation a "political witch hunt" and characterized the findings as "tabloid trash gossip" based on "lies and falsehoods," although witnesses interviewed with the committee under oath, and the committee found the woman to be "an overall credible witness." The governor declined to testify.

His response Wednesday echoed statements by his team in recent weeks, which have sought to frame the governor's scandal as a partisan endeavor. But a Republican majority authorized the House committee's investigation, which was also led by a Republican.

Don Siegelman and Doug Jones had a heated political discussion shortly before former governor needed heart surgery and his son announced run for AG


Don Siegelman and Doug Jones
Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) engaged in a heated political discussion shortly before Siegelman was forced to go to the doctor and wound up having heart surgery, sources tell Legal Schnauzer.

Siegelman had heart-bypass surgery on Feb. 9, the same day that his son, Joseph, qualified to run as a Democrat in the 2018 race for Alabama attorney general. Joseph Siegelman's political plans were at the heart of a tense conversation between Jones and Don Siegelman, sources say.

Don Siegelman, apparently under the mistaken impression that Jones would be supportive of the younger Siegelman's plans, asked the senator for an endorsement. Jones declined, which should not have been a surprise considering the evidence of his support for the other Democrat in the race, Bradley Arant lawyer Chris Christie.

Jones' negative reaction to the idea of a Joseph Siegelman endorsement should not have been a surprise for several other reasons:

(1) Jones clearly has been aligned with the so-called "Alabama Gang" of Republicans -- including Rob Riley, Bill Canary, Jeff Sessions, and Karl Rove -- dating at least to the work Jones and Riley did together in the early 2000s on a lawsuit against HealthSouth and related entities, a case that generated more than $50 million in attorney fees.

(2) Jones was Don Siegelman's defense attorney for a time in the federal bribery case that wound up unlawfully sending the former governor to federal prison for roughly six years. Jones inexplicably extended the statute of limitations for the government to built a case it obviously didn't have at the time. Jones also charged Siegelman $300,000 while doing relatively little legal work -- and then bailed out of the case before trial because of a conflict on Jones' end. We've seen no sign that Jones returned any of the money, and he has refused to answer our questions on the subject. To add insult to insult, Jones went before a Congressional committee in 2007 and talked glowingly about Bill Pryor, the current federal judge who, as Alabama AG in the late 1990s, launched the Siegelman investigation before the new governor's fanny barely had hit the office chair.

(3) Jones apparently favors Chris Christie, even though a prominent spokesperson for the Christie campaign is Sirote Permutt lawyer Barry Ragsdale. That's the same Barry Ragsdale who helped former U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller fight charges that he beat his wife in an Atlanta hotel room -- events that led to Fuller's forced resignation from the bench. Fuller, of course, is the judge who oversaw the Siegelman trial, repeatedly making unlawful and one-sided rulings that helped ensure a conviction. Jones essentially supports a candidate whose campaign has ties to wife beating and the kind of judicial corruption that sends innocent people to prison.

What's the No. 1 reason Jones doesn't support Joseph Siegelman? It's possible the younger Siegelman would be a tough, competent attorney general -- probably the first Alabama AG with integrity since Jimmy Evans (1991-95). The last thing Jones and his right-wing associates want is a competent AG who might take a critical glance at some of their under-handed activities in recent years. Here is how we put it in a recent post:

Why is Joseph Siegelman's run for the AG's office generating blow back from establishment Democrats and Republican? The answer, to me, is obvious. Many of those establishment types -- Rob Riley, Bob Riley, Jeff Sessions, Doug Jones, Bill Canary, Mark Fuller, Leura Canary and many more -- were deeply involved in the crooked prosecution that caused Don Siegelman to land in prison.

The establishment knows that a real attorney general, such as Joseph Siegelman, still could pursue any number of civil or criminal claims that are not barred by the statute of limitations. And that means a Joseph Siegelman tenure as AG could help put some of them -- and their brethren -- behind bars, where they belong. No wonder they support Chris Christie, who likely is to serve as their protector.

In other words, Joseph Siegelman could be a threat to Doug Jones and the right-wing thugs who helped him land in the U.S. Senate. Don Siegelman apparently does not grasp that, and we can't imagine why.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Alabama "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley resigned one year ago yesterday, serving as a reminder of the impact Legal Schnauzer has had on the political landscape


"Luv Guv" Bentley's mugshot, which likely never would have been taken
without reporting here at Legal Schnauzer.


Does a blog make a difference in your life? If you live in Alabama -- or care about Alabama-related events on the national stage -- this blog certainly does.

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Gov. Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley's resignation from office. Legal Schnauzer broke the story of Bentley's affair with "adviser" Rebekah Caldwell Mason -- and its associated financial and legal implications -- roughly seven months before the mainstream media (MSM) began to take it seriously. The first story on the Bentley scandal, anywhere in any form of media, was published here at Legal Schnauzer on Aug. 31, 2015.

We were way ahead of everybody in naming Rebekah Mason as a central figure in the scandal. Our guess is the MSM never would have touched the story if we hadn't broken it and followed up with key details. In fact, al.com (especially "reporters" John Archibald and Chuck Dean) spent months attacking my journalism on the story. They were more interested in sweeping the story under their GOP-tinted rug than actually pursuing it:

Archibald and colleague Chuck Dean had spent part of those seven months blasting me and my reporting. Archibald claimed my reporting "offered . . . 'sources.' Not proof or fact or anything more than smoke."

Dean, undoubtedly pissed that I had outed him as a customer of the the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, offered this critique: "Despite no claim of infidelity in the divorce papers, the rumor traveled across platforms such as talk radio, Facebook, Twitter and in some blogs of dubious credibility purporting the unsubstantial rumor as fact." (Can someone define an "unsubstantial" rumor? I guess that is in contrast to a "substantial" rumor?)

Archibald, of course, was happy to go on The Rachel Maddow Show in spring 2017 and take credit for "breaking" the story, even though he was seven months late to the party.

Speaking of taking credit for the work of others, we have lawyer/businessman/Facebook "journalist" Donald Watkins, who repeatedly has taken credit for breaking the Bentley-Mason story. His most recent effort to falsely claim credit for breaking the story came three days ago. Much of Watkins' early reporting on the Bentley scandal focused on hints that the governor was having a homosexual affair with his security chief.

Watkins didn't even have the gender issue correct, and never mentioned Mason's name until well after we had broken it. Yet, just three days ago, he took credit for breaking the story. Perhaps that kind of fundamental dishonesty is the reason Watkins is up to his neck in federal investigations. (Given that many state and federal prosecutors are utterly lacking in integrity, it's also possible Watkins is being targeted because his skin is black and is seen as a threat to Alabama's conservative establishment.)

Did our reporting on the Bentley-Mason scandal come with risk? Absolutely, as spelled out in a post last April:

Nine days after I broke the Bentley/Mason story, my wife, Carol, and I were subject to an unlawful eviction in Greene County, Missouri (on Sept. 9, 2015). I had an assault rifle pointed at my head, Carol's left arm was shattered, and she likely sustained a concussion from having her head banged against a wall multiple times, and being body slammed butt-first to the ground before a deputy yanked on her limbs so violently that the bone in her left arm was snapped in two above the elbow. We know Carol's arm never will be the same, and we've seen signs of jumbled thinking that suggests her brain might never be the same either. And get this: Bogus criminal charges -- for trespass and assault on a law-enforcement officer -- were filed against her.

Are Bentley and Mason evil enough to be involved in something like that? Well, multiple reports have indicated Bentley unlawfully sought use of state and federal criminal data bases to target me (and attorney/Facebook journalist Donald Watkins) in retaliation for our reporting. Does that sound a bit like the intimidation campaign we now know Bentley conducted against Heather Hannah, a former assistant to First Lady Dianne Bentley? It sure as heck does.

The Bentley story hardly is the only one where Legal Schnauzer has made a difference. Here is a rundown of stories where our reporting either helped bring down, or significantly weaken, a corrupt political figure:

( 1) Luther Strange -- By almost all accounts, Strange's political demise grew from his decision to accept an appointment to Jeff Sessions' Senate seat from hideously corrupt Alabama Gov. Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley. Strange apparently accepted the appointment in exchange for having his state attorney general's office go light on Bentley. It was such a blatant quid pro quo that it even made many Alabama conservatives want to wretch. But here is a key point to remember: Bentley would not have been radioactive if we hadn't broken the story of his extramarital affair with top adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason. It's possible the mainstream press never would have picked up on the Bentley story if we had not broken it. Without our reporting, Strange does not make a devil's deal with Bentley -- and Strange might have beaten [Roy] Moore in yesterday's runoff. Goodbye, Luther.

(2) Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley -- How many one-man blogs (plus two staff members) have taken down a governor? I can't think of any -- and make no mistake, Legal Schnauzer took down Bentley, who resigned on April 10, 2017. We reported on both the affair with Mason -- and its financial implications -- well before anyone else. Attorney Donald Watkins picked up on the story, at his Facebook page, not long after we broke it. But it was roughly seven months before the mainstream press took serious notice.

(3) Cooper Shattuck -- The former chief legal counsel at the University of Alabama resigned in December 2016. That came just eight days after former Bentley security chief Wendell Ray Lewis filed a lawsuit naming ACEGOV, a nonprofit that Shattuck formed, apparently to funnel money to Mason. We were among the first news outlets to report on Shattuck's role in forming ACEGOV and its central role in the Bentley scandal. We were the only news outlet to report on Shattuck's own problems with sins of the flesh, and those revelations likely weakened his position as top lawyer at the state's flagship university.

(4) Rebekah Caldwell Mason -- Mason was the first casualty in the Bentley scandal, resigning as senior political adviser in March 2016. She left with these words: "My only plans are to focus my full attention on my precious children and my husband who I love dearly." The old "I want to spend time with my family" excuse. It never seems to go out of style.

(5) Mike Hubbard -- The former House Speaker was convicted on 12 felony ethics charges in June 2016. Bill Britt and his team at Alabama Political Reporter played the lead role in breaking and reporting that story, but we played an important supporting role by providing analysis that readers were not likely to find in the mainstream press.

(6) Mark Fuller -- The former U.S. district judge, who butchered the Don Siegelman case and sent two innocent men (Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy) to federal prison, resigned in August 2015 after a wife-beating incident came to light. A number of news outlets reported on the wife-beating story, but we had earlier broken a story about court records that showed Fuller's divorce from his first wife involved allegations of physical and emotional abuse. That helped establish a pattern of abusive behavior -- making it hard for the mainstream press and judicial establishment to ignore the story -- and it probably played a key role in Fuller's forced resignation.

Finally, we have . . .

(7) Bill Pryor -- The U.S. Circuit Judge widely was considered the front-runner as Donald Trump's choice to fill the late Antonin Scalia's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. The seat, however, went to Neil Gorsuch, of Colorado, with Pryor fading badly to third. Several knowledgeable observers have said they believe our reporting on Pryor's ties to 1990s gay pornography via badpuppy.com cost Pryor a lifetime appointment on the nation's highest court. Who am I to argue? With the RussiaGate investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller closing in, it appears doubtful Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Pryor's No. 1 booster, among other things) will be around long enough for Pryor to get another chance.

In short, our journalism has had a profound impact on the following institutions -- the Alabama Governor's Office, the Alabama House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the federal judiciary. And we are working on stories that could help bring down more crooked public figures -- in Alabama, Missouri, and beyond.

Do blogs make a difference in your life? They sure do, especially this one. The one-year anniversary of "Luv Guv" Bentley's exit seems like a good time to remember that.