Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Alliance between AG Steve Marshall and oily lawyer Rob Riley shows Alabama crooks don't make much of an effort to keep their sleazy antics under wraps

Steve Marshall and "Luv Guv" Bentley
A recent article about the blatant nature of corruption in postmodern Alabama, especially among conservatives, points a glaring finger at Homewood attorney Rob Riley. That comes as no surprise, given that Riley -- ever since his father, former Gov. Bob Riley, rose to power in the U.S. House in the late 1990s -- has been tied to enough crookedness to fill several volumes of a series on modern sleaze in the Deep South.

At one time, it seemed Riley and his brethren tried to be subtle about their oily ways. But in a recent piece at Alabama Political Reporter (APR), titled "Alabama politicians aren’t even trying to hide the corruption anymore," Josh Moon presents Rob Riley as a politician who does not give a flip if the public can see right through his shady dealings. This subject hits close to home for your humble blogger because I've seen Riley's shenanigans in an up-close-and-personal way.

For an example, Moon turns to the 2018 race for Alabama attorney general, which might be the most interesting, underhanded, and blood-stained race on this year's docket. At the heart of Moon's saga is the sitting AG, Steve Marshall. Moon and Bill Britt reported at APR late last week that "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley appointed Marshall after receiving assurances that Marshall would investigate prosecutors Matt Hart and Van Davis in the Mike Hubbard case.

If that sounds to you like the kind of quid pro quo ("something for something" deal) that constitutes a federal bribery charge, that's because it probably is. Moon adds another layer of chicanery with his report on Marshall and Rob Riley. From that article:

I mean, maybe there’s an argument to be made that our people are more stupid than brazen, and they’re simply too ignorant to recognize that we all see what they’re doing. But that’s not a lot of comfort.

Because we seem to have reached a point in this state where corruption and shadiness is the norm.

We simply expect the crooked deals and underhanded payoffs and backroom politics. So much so that our politicians aren’t really hiding it anymore.

Perfect example: Steve Marshall.

Marshall's alliance with Rob Riley is enough to test anyone's wretch reflex. Writes Moon:

Take a quick look through our interim AG’s campaign finance records sometime. And prepare to be amazed.

Not necessarily at the amount of the donations, although that figure, at well over $1 million raised so far — for a gig that pays $168,000 annually — should be scandal enough. But look at who’s giving.

On Feb. 26, a $2,500 donation came in from the Riley and Jackson law firm. That’s the firm of former Gov. Bob Riley’s son, Rob Riley. That firm also shares office space with Bob Riley’s consulting firm.

But more importantly to Steve Marshall, and the attorneys working for him at the AG’s public corruption unit, Rob Riley is currently representing Mike Hubbard in his appeal against a case brought by that aforementioned AG’s public corruption unit.

So the current AG is taking in donations from the attorneys of a convicted felon who was one of the most powerful men in the state.


This isn't anything new for Rob Riley. In 2013, he and lobbyist Liberty Duke filed a lawsuit against me, my wife, and Legal Schnauzer, claiming that reporting here about the Riley-Duke (ahem) relationship was false and defamatory. Did they ask for discovery, a jury trial, and money damages -- the normal course of a defamation lawsuit?  Nope, they did not seek any of that. They went for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction, both of which have been found to be unlawful prior restraints under more than 200 years of First Amendment law.

Rob and Bob Riley
It all was a scam designed to have me and Carol (who was not even involved with the blog at the time) unlawfully thrown in jail for "contempt of court." Their scheme was so transparent that I disclosed exactly what they were doing, even before I was arrested. Carol managed to elude capture and get the story of my kidnapping (arrest without a warrant) for blogging into the national press.

Anyone slightly familiar with First Amendment law, especially the seminal case of Near v. Minnesota, 283 US 697 (1931), knew Riley, Duke, and specially appointed rogue judge Claud Neilson were operating way outside the law. In essence, Riley and Duke asked Neilson to act as a one-man censor -- and that has been prohibited, by law, for decades. In fact, that's why the law requires juries to hear defamation cases.

The Riley-Duke scam to obtain a preliminary injunction ran afoul of Alabama procedural and case law, as I explained in a post on Oct. 10, 2013. I showed that it also ran afoul of longstanding constitutional law -- and that post was written two weeks before my arrest. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court of 1931 had looked into the future and seen thugs like Rob Riley, Liberty Duke, and Claud Neilson on the horizon:

. . . 230 years of U.S. law shows Neilson's efforts to stifle a free press are unlawful. Riley's petition is a thinly veiled attempt to threaten my wife and me with jail for practicing journalism--the publishing of information that has not been found by any court to be defamatory. 
In Near, the U.S. Supreme Court saw that kind of thuggery coming and wrote the following: 
"When a newspaper or periodical is found to be "malicious, scandalous and defamatory," and is suppressed as such, resumption of publication is punishable as a contempt of court by fine or imprisonment. Thus, where a newspaper or periodical has been suppressed because of the circulation of charges against public officers of official misconduct, it would seem to be clear that the renewal of the publication of such charges would constitute a contempt and that the judgment would lay a permanent restraint upon the publisher, to escape which he must satisfy the court as to the character of a new publication. Whether he would be permitted again to publish matter deemed to be derogatory to the same or other public officers would depend upon the court's ruling."

That passage describes exactly what Rob Riley is trying to pull--he wants to suppress a free press, with the threat of a contempt finding that is punishable by imprisonment. The U.S. Supreme Court in Near found "this is of the essence of censorship."

It was unlawful in 1931, and it's unlawful in 2013.

It's also unlawful in 2018. Bottom line: Rob Riley did not even try to hide his corrupt acts in having me unlawfully incarcerated for daring to practice journalism in Alabama. The same thing is happening now with Riley and Steve Marshall. In fact, Marshall's skulduggery goes beyond Riley, as Josh Moon reports:

Marshall has indirectly hauled in tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Jimmy Rane and Will Brooke — two wealthy and prominent business owners, and major political donors, who were caught up in the Hubbard conviction.

And here’s the fun backstory there: Rane and Brooke could technically still be indicted for their roles in giving Hubbard money. Of the 12 felony counts against Hubbard, two involved in Rane and Brooke. And with a grand jury still empaneled in Lee County . . .

But no biggie to Marshall. He’ll take their cash.

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