Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Whistle-blowing blog in Morgan County, AL, has helped bring down Sheriff Ana Franklin, who has a federal lawsuit and FBI investigation hot on her trail


Ana Franklin
An Alabama sheriff, with an apparent tendency to violate the public trust, has announced she is not running for re-election. The public can thank a small-town blog for that, and it's another example of the Web press' power in the Heart of Dixie, whether the site is located in Birmingham or a north Alabama burg of fewer than 15,000 people.

Legal Schnauzer has helped bring down or neuter a number of prominent political figures, including "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley,  Bentley aide Rebecca Caldwell Mason, U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, and federal judges Mark Fuller and Bill Pryor. But we can't take any credit for the exit of Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin, the only female sheriff in the state. All of the credit for that goes to morgancountywhistleblower.com, a blog published by Glenda Lockhart, of Hartselle.

Ana Franklin was elected sheriff of Morgan County in 2010 and soon developed a reputation for playing fast and loose with public funds and playing rough with critics of her office. One of those critics was Glenda Lockhart, and her persistent reporting on Franklin's dubious actions led to a recent announcement that Franklin would not stand for re-election when her term expires in 2019. From an al.com report on Franklin's decision to step down:

Ana Franklin, the only woman in Alabama currently serving as a county's top cop, is not running for re-election.

Franklin was first elected Morgan County Sheriff in 2010, taking office the following January. She plans to serve the remainder of her second term, which ends in January 2019.

"Today is a difficult day for me and comes only after endless hours of painful, deliberate thought and constant prayer over this decision," Franklin said in a video message posted to her Facebook page today. I have decided that I will not be seeking a third term as your sheriff.

"I am truly honored and blessed to have been given this opportunity to serve the people of my county," Franklin continued. "I love Morgan County and the people I work with. I love the office of sheriff and what that office means to the people."

How nasty has the environment become in Morgan County? As al.com notes, even The New York Times has taken notice, with a piece last December about a federal investigation that revolves around Franklin:

Franklin's seven years in office haven't come without controversy. Most notably, Franklin was found in contempt of court last year because she loaned $150,000 of the jail's inmate feeding funds to a crooked used car lot. She's the subject of a federal investigation, as reported recently in The New York Times. The sheriff and her office have been blasted by the local Morgan County Whistleblower blog.

How did Franklin draw Lockhart's attention and become the primary focus at one of the state's best-known investigative blogs? The New York Times explains:

Ms. Lockhart first took an interest in the sheriff after deputies came to her rural home in July 2011 to investigate a supposed disturbance. What happened next is in dispute, but she and her husband, Harold Lockhart, say the officers found nothing but refused to leave when asked.

Deputies arrested the couple after Mr. Lockhart, a retired military police officer, said he had had enough and was calling his lawyer. The Lockharts successfully sued the sheriff for false arrest. And while the sheriff was not present for the arrest and later said she knew nothing about it, Ms. Lockhart did not forget.

Franklin's questionable handling of public funds soon surfaced, and Lockhart and her blog were there to make sure the public knew about it:

There was, however, more than enough evidence to link the sheriff to Priceville Partners L.L.C., a get-rich-quick scheme that spread a toxic cloud over the business community.

A used-car dealership offering title loans, Priceville Partners had begun opening branches around the county, and investors were welcome. Ordinarily, law officers might investigate rather than invest in a business co-owned by the likes of Greg Steenson, who had done prison time for a multimillion-dollar check-kiting scheme. But several officers from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, along with Morgan County deputies, became financially involved, records show. One agent texted another asking if he wanted a one-month $7,000 profit on a $10,000 investment. Sheriff Franklin’s father worked there; her daughter did the bookkeeping.

The sheriff invested $150,000. She would later say that she had not known Mr. Steenson was a co-owner, even though her daughter said that was clear from her first day on the job.

Sheriff Franklin eventually admitted the money had been withdrawn from an account earmarked for feeding inmates.

In 2016, Franklin chose to launch an under-handed attack on the Lockharts -- and it might have proven to be the sheriff's undoing:

In October last year [2016], armed with a warrant, the sheriff’s drug task force seized Ms. Lockhart’s computers and electronic devices, court records show. In preparing for the raid, the sheriff hired an unusual spy — Ms. Lockhart’s 19-year-old grandson, Daniel Lockhart, who aspired to work in law enforcement.

Glenda Lockhart
Mr. Lockhart said the sheriff’s technology expert had instructed him on how to plant spyware. The raid took place about a week after he said he installed the software.
Mr. Lockhart had been living with his grandparents and working in their business. He gained access to the office after hours, he said, by telling Ms. Lockhart that his girlfriend needed an office computer for homework. Ms. Lockhart said she later discovered the spyware on her home computer as well and took it to the F.B.I., which has retained it.

Sheriff Franklin admits to hiring the grandson, but denies that she or anyone in her office asked him to install spyware. “We have absolute proof, ” Mr. Lovelace, the sheriff’s lawyer, wrote to The Times. He produced an analysis of Ms. Lockhart’s business computers by a firm he hired that, he said, found no spyware. Several parts of that report were omitted, he said, because of a continuing criminal investigation that he was not at liberty to describe.

The sheriff’s denial is undercut by four people who told The Times separately that they had knowledge that the sheriff’s office taught Mr. Lockhart how to install the spyware. Among them was Ricky Brewer, the sheriff’s former technology officer, who said he told the F.B.I. that his replacement acknowledged giving the grandson the software.

The sheriff's problems, even if she steps down as announced, might just be getting started. From The New York Times:

Here in Morgan County, Ms. Lockhart has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Sheriff Franklin of violating her right to free speech, invading her privacy and slandering her, charges the sheriff denies. Ms. Lockhart’s computers, containing vital company records, were returned only after a court hearing.

Glenda Lockhart's small-town blog keeps marching along. Meanwhile, Sheriff Franklin is headed out the door, with a federal lawsuit, an FBI investigation, and all sorts of unpleasantness on her tail.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ana Franklin is going to wind up behind bars, and that's where she belongs.

Anonymous said...

Sheriffs stealing inmate meal money is common practice in Alabama. It needs to stop.

legalschnauzer said...

I heard lots of interesting things while in Shelby County Jail. One was that Sheriff Chris Curry was forced out over inmate meal-money issue. Also hear one or more Shelby County judges profit big time from the jail because they owned the property it was built on.

Jail is a good place for gossip, although I'm not sure how much of it was true.

Anonymous said...

Glenda Lockhart has done a true public service.

Anonymous said...

Franklin might have been OK if she had focused on being sheriff, but she got sidetracked with all the side garbage. Looking for a quick buck from her public position.

Anonymous said...

Sheriffs = crooks

Anonymous said...

I would have thought a female sheriff might be less likely to get involved with sleaze. So much for that.

Anonymous said...

I hear Ana Franklin had a close relationship with Luther Strange back when he was AG.

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between a sheriff and a thief?

Nothing. Not one thing.

Anonymous said...

So Lutha was close to sheriff Ana?

Does JMG know about this?

Anonymous said...

This is off topic, but did notice the story about Al Franken being targeted by bots based in Japan, apparently at the direction of Roger Stone. Makes me wonder if some of the fruit-loop comments you get come from the same, or similar source.


http://www.newsweek.com/alt-right-trump-franken-mueller-twitter-810355

legalschnauzer said...

@12:48 --

Yes, I saw the Franken story and had the same question that you did. The story suggests, to me, that the charges against Franken were 100 percent false, and Democrats were idiots to fall for it.

Franken deserves a bunch of apologies -- and he should get his senate seat back.

There's no question some of the comments we get come from automated sources. A lot of them start sounding the same after a while, and they consistently show no sign of human thought -- even stupid human thought.

Whether those bots are from Japan, Rusia, Canada, U.S., wherever . . . I have no idea.

e.a.f. said...

The electing of police chiefs, sheriffs is quite a strange concept and only appears to happen in the U.S.A, unlike other major countries, which hire them. What is hired can always be fired. All these small town police forces must cost a bundle and not always provide the best service, given it would be difficult for them to all have adequate education in justice, criminal law, evidence collecting, etc.

Blogs are such a wonderful thing. it does demonstrate the old line of: the pen is mightier than the sword. so keep on blogging.

Thomas S. Bean said...

The legislatures are totally incompetent at reform legislation based on meaningful investigation of Gov agencies that are likely to abuse their authority.

For instance, this fact pattern raises legal issues concerning:

1)--INVESTIGATIVE WARRANTS WITH TIME LIMITATIONS: Should there be some sort of sunlight on the "opening of investigations" with a statement concerning "all sources, methods, technology" with a specific time limitation to prevent "politcized fishing expeditions". Wouldn't it be nice if targets were actually given notice of what technology was used against them and for how long? Shouldn't there be ADULT SUPERVISION OF LEO (Law Enfor. Organ.) as they collude with contract vigilante Community Watch Groups? Is that asking too much? This should have been on the docket at Judicial and Bar Association Conferences...but everyone has there head up there Janklow (reference to SD's notorious GOP Nazi Gov. Bill Janklow and all his hotdog, bozo pals);

2)--FAMILY CONFIDENTIALITY PROTECTION: Should we consider protecting families from being recruited as snitches?

Should there be a warrant requirement for snitches? Shouldn't betrayal be policed or minimized with a time limitation? Do we need background checks and control of this criminal element that has in the past "engaged in assaultive conduct" to coerce targets as a form of extrajudicial punishment. When targets defend themselves, they get beaten or arrested, but the aggressors always avoid charges because LEO routinely makes excuses so that "selective enforcement" leads to "malicious and selective prosecutions" (Usually leading to guilty pleas based on Brady violations).

Thomas S. Bean said...

WARRANT REQUIREMENT FOR INFORMANT RECRUITING:

What lies and coercion can be deployed to extort or manipulate a stooge into becoming a snitch against his family? You've heard of "husband-wife confidentiality" as a defense prohibiting a spouse from testifying against another spouse....why not control and regulate "informant recruiting" to protect something as ineffable as "family loyalty"?

Look what happened to Roger Shuler when the politicized harassment crossed state lines into Missouri ("The Show Me State"), and focused on "flipping his lawyer brother" into becoming a stooge who set up the laugh curtain when his brother joined the vigilantes by invoking bogus allegations of Roger's "mental instability". This was done to me with catastrophic
effectiveness making it "impossible to interview with attorneys" and neutralized my credibility concerning "conspiracy facts" that the police state wished to contain.

Look at how Roger's lawyer brother must have got flipped with bogus lies to get him to join the eviction team....leading to morons (Sheriff supervising his arm breaking goon) rationalizing a Commie style "in home invasion" without warrant or legal cause. They like to "manufacture the outrage to provoke" so they can rationalize"extrajudicial punishment" by those who literally "don't have a beef" and seem dedicated to exaggerated, extreme, over the top, physical responses.

3)--ACCURATE COLLECTION OF ALL EVIDENCE: REQUIRED RECORDING OF ALL CONVERSATIONS INCLUDING INFORMANT RECRUITING: wouldn't it be nice if the cops-feds actually had to be as professional as they claim to be?

Wouldn't it be impressive if rubber stamp, jack ass Judges actually policed their courtrooms and FORCED LEO (Law Enfor. Organ.) to make an accurate record of their nefarious acts and omissions? This would cut down on exaggerations, lynch mob fraud, slander, etc....to expose the malignant, destructive, malice, and chicanery that LEO is famous for.

After all, anything an investigator says or does (including Community Vigilante Contractors secretly operating without warrants while using invasive technology) is evidence that must be gathered: "All Evidence must be recorded with chain of possession focus to comply with the court ordered discovery"...right?

As it sits now...LEO has way too much discretion to abuse so they can manufacture what appears to be a legal airtight case in pursuit of a guilty plea based on Brady violations. Fighting hypocritical charges based on cherry picked and unrecorded investigative files, leads to an unconstitutional burden resulting in guilty pleas based on Brady violations.

Judges, The ABA, and state bar associations........have no interest or curiosity about developing a dialogue concerning due process rights. State and Fed legislatures, remain lapdog, joker, jack asses at this Insane Cop Clown Rodeo known as "Police State Amerika": Post 9/11 Technocratic Tyranny.