Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Arrest of Alabama lawmaker Jack Williams on federal bribery charges brings a reminder that politics can trump friendship in the ugly, postmodern 2000s

Jack Williams
Yesterday's arrests of Alabama GOP politicos Jack Williams and Marty Connors brings to mind the old bromide "Karma is a bitch."

Williams served in the Alabama Legislature for 14 years, and Connors was chairman of the Alabama Republican Party from 2000-05. Both face federal bribery charges; both are extremely well connected in Republican circles. And they undoubtedly have mountains of information about right-wing corruption -- which they apparently have chosen to keep under their hats.

As for Connors, his name has popped up in the Don Siegelman case, especially because of his ties to former U.S. senator and current Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions. As for Williams . . . well, his story hits close to home on a personal level.

I've known Jack Williams for 35 years or so. Back in the late '70s or early '80s, Jack was at Southeastern Bible College (which had a basketball team then), and he would regularly call in their basketball scores when I worked in the sports department at the Birmingham Post-Herald.

Most members of the sports department found it less-than-thrilling to take Southeastern Bible College basketball scores. But the late Mack Shoemaker and I didn't mind doing the scut work, so Jack probably got one of us when he called -- at least if he wanted his score to get into the paper the next day.

Jack seemed like a pleasant, enthusiastic sort, and we became pretty good "phone buds" for a number of years. At some point, we met in person -- probably because of our shared connections to UAB athletics and the late Hall of Fame coach Gene Bartow.

I always looked forward to seeing Jack, and the fact that our politics pretty clearly weren't a match, didn't keep us from being friends. In fact, I don't remember us ever discussing politics. It was easy to get a smile out of Jack, and we shared a genuine affection for basketball, in a state known for football.

Sadly, Jack taught me one of the grim realities of postmodern American life -- politics often trumps friendship. When I started getting cheated by Republican judges and lawyers, and then lost my job at UAB for writing about [mostly GOP] corruption on this blog, Jack was nowhere to be found. I have no doubt that he knows exactly who cheated me out of my job, who caused me to be thrown in jail (for blogging), and who cheated us out of our home of 25 years via a wrongful foreclosure.

Did Jack contact me to help me fight back against criminals in his own political party? Did he do anything to stand up for the rule of law, to help a friend who was being abused? Did he help seek justice, as The Bible commands in numerous places? Nope. He sat silently and let Carol and me suffer, let us hang out to dry.

From what I've heard, Marty Connors developed a pretty fair friendship, across the political aisle, with Don Siegelman. Did that prompt Connors to speak up against members of his party who politically prosecuted Siegelman? Did it bother Connors when an innocent man went to prison for roughly six years? Doesn't sound like it -- but then, Connors had to maintain a close relationship with Jeff Sessions, who might be the most corrupt political figure ever to come from the South. And Sessions played a central role in the Siegelman prosecution, which Marty Connors surely knew.

Siegelman mentioned Connors in an interview last September with Smashing Interviews magazine:

Don Siegelman: All I can say is Karl Rove had to vet Bill Pryor for his judgeship for the Eleventh Circuit. Interestingly enough, as soon as he was appointed, Jeff Sessions made the comment, “We would’ve gotten Bill on the bench earlier, but we needed a Republican governor in place first.” That was 2003. You will remember that Bob Riley pushed his $2 billion tax bill and his popularity sank. My popularity rose. The political surveys in 2003 showed that I was going to just beat the stew out of him in 2006.

At that point, the state Republican Party chairman, Marty Connors, was summoned to Jeff Sessions’ office in Washington where they had a discussion about the parameters under which Jeff would run against me in 2006. Sessions told Connors, “I want a close field for the Republican primary. If Riley is out of there, I’ll leave my Senate seat. I’ll run for governor.” Maybe the discussion centered around who he’d appoint as governor to fill his unexpired term in the US Senate. At that point, Sessions was interested in running for governor in 2006.

Williams and Connors were indicted in the Middle District of Alabama, while the North Birmingham Superfund scandal is evolving in the Northern District of Alabama. If investigators were to collaborate, and push Williams and Connors for information, they likely could bring down a load of Republican criminals -- including Jeff Sessions, Luther Strange, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Bill Pryor, Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Jabo Waggoner, and Richard Shelby.

Press reports suggest the feds squeezed former GOP lawmaker Mickey Hammon to help bring the charges announced yesterday -- and Hammon got a ridiculously light sentence. If the feds squeeze Williams and Connors, there is no telling how many GOP thugs might fall.

If that were to happen, Williams and Connors would do their state and country a huge favor -- and they likely would get reduced sentences for themselves. But I'm not sure they even would recognize the importance of that opportunity, if it were to present itself. Based on my experience with Jack Williams, I suspect he's so blinded by political partisanship that he's not capable of standing up for the rule of law, the U.S. constitution, or anything outside the Grand Old Party.

According to news reports, Williams and Connors appeared yesterday before a U.S. magistrate in Montgomery -- and they were handcuffed and shackled at the waist. That's much the way I was treated for a hearing before hideously corrupt "judge" Claud Neilson while I was in the Shelby County Jail.

I know Jack Williams once was a good guy. But it appears politics turned him into a power-grabbing, money-hungry hustler. I know for sure he turned his back on a friend, in the name of politics.

Now that Jack is under federal indictment, and he faces a possible 20 years in prison, I wonder if he thinks about that, about things he could have done differently..

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