Friday, July 13, 2018

Police abuse of Adam Finley in Walnut Ridge, AR, sparks federal lawsuit and national news coverage of a case where stupidity, not race, is the central issue

An Arkansas police officer sparked a federal lawsuit and national news coverage when he arrested a man for acting suspiciously at a railroad yard -- and the man worked for the railroad company. That sounds like a joke, but it's only the beginning of the craziness at the heart of a case styled Adam Finley v. City of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, et al.

In fact, the case has plenty of ugliness to go with the craziness. When Finley and his wife, Heather, visited the Walnut Ridge Police Department to file a complaint against Officer Matthew Mercado, Chief Chris Kirksey said Finley was lucky not to be in jail, and the chief and a sergeant wound up writing a citation that charges Finley with two crimes -- obstruction of governmental operations and resisting arrest. This came even after Chief Kirksey had seen body-cam video that proves Finley did not obstruct or resist anything. (Video of the encounter with Officer Mercado is at the top of this post; Video of the meeting with Kirksey and Sgt. Matthew Cook, in two parts, is at the end of this post. Note: In the video above, Officer Mercado apparently did not turn on audio to his body cam, so the video is silent for about 30 seconds at the beginning.)

Bottom line: If you are the victim of police misconduct in Walnut Ridge, AR, and you have the audacity to report it, you can wind up facing criminal charges you clearly did not commit, per a dash-cam video. This, of course, sounds a lot like the experience my wife, Carol, and I have had in Springfield, Missouri, where Greene County deputies broke her arm -- requiring trauma surgery and about six months of physical therapy -- during an unlawful eviction in September 2015, and then hit her with an "assault of a law enforcement officer" charge, even though the "victim" officer (Jeremy Lynn) admitted in a written report and under oath at trial that he initiated contact with Carol, meaning she was not guilty, as a matter of Missouri law.

In Carol's case, officers repeatedly lied under oath, and Judge Jerry A. Harmison Jr. violated black-letter law in order to find Carol guilty in a bench trial, where there was not even probable cause to arrest, much less to prosecute.

Compared to Carol, Adam Finley got off easy. He did not have any broken bones, and the criminal charges against him ultimately were dropped. There already has been some semblance of accountability for the Walnut Ridge Police Department; there has been zero accountability, so far, against the Greene County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) and its head thug, Jim Arnott, and crooked prosecutor, Dan Patterson.

The police abuse of Adam Finley is relatively tame compared to what happens in some cases, where victims wind up with broken bones, or even dead. For one, Finley (like Carol) is white, so it shows police abuse is not just directed at black people. We have no doubt police disproportionately target black folks, and there is good reason the Black Lives Matter movement grew out of the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson, Missouri. But the Finley case is not about race; it's more about mind-numbing stupidity on the part of an officer, and the corruptness of his superiors -- all of it conducted while cameras were rolling.

Stan Morris, of NEA (Northeast Arkansas) Report, has led news coverage of the Finley story at a local level. Radley Balko, of The Washington Post, picked up on the Finley case earlier this week and noted, right off, the goofiness of it all. We invite you to watch the body-cam footage above, and Finley promptly turns over his ID as a railroad-company employee. (Note: Again, Officer Mercado apparently did not immediately turn on audio to his body cam, so the video is silent for about the first 30 seconds.) In other words, Finley was not "acting suspiciously" at all; he was on the job and had work-related reasons to be at the railroad yard. But Officer Mercado apparently can't grasp that and slams Finley up against his own truck, cursing him, slapping handcuffs on him, and then ultimately letting him go. But Finley winds up facing criminal charges after filing a complaint, and (unlike Carol) he is acquitted. From Balko:

Mercado didn’t turn on the audio for his camera until about 30 seconds into the stop. During that time, the video shows Finley handing Mercado both his license and his employee ID from the railroad company. Mercado then asks Finley to get out of his truck. It’s here that Mercado then turns on his mic. He asks Finley, “What’s with the attitude?” Finley, who appears to have done nothing to indicate an “attitude,” replies, “Nothing.”

Mercado persists. “No, you have an attitude. What’s your problem?” Finley responds, “I don’t have no problem, I’m good.” Mercado again pushes. “I can pull you over if I want.” Finley says, “That’s fine.”

This is obstructing governmental operations? Does an alternate universe exist in Walnut Ridge, AR, especially in law enforcement. Here is more from Balko:

Later Mercado again expresses doubt about Finley’s employment — again, despite having Finley’s employee ID in his own hands. “It doesn’t look like you were working,” he says. As he says this, Finley takes a small step away from the truck. Mercado snaps, “If you get up on me again, we’re going to have problems.” Finley, clearly taken aback at the escalation, flashes a nervous smile. Mercado again ratchets up the tension. “I’m glad you think all of this is a joke, sir.” Finley shakes his head and again tells Mercado that he works for the railroad. Mercado again indicates that he doesn’t believe him.

Mercado then orders Finley to put his hands behind his back, and says he’s going to arrest him for “obstructing my operation.” Finley, clearly nervous, protests and tries to prove to Mercado that he works for the railroad by showing him some equipment in the back of his truck. At this point the stop turns violent. Mercado grabs Finley and throws him against the truck. Finley puts his hands behind his back. Mercado cuffs him and says, “You’re about ignorant.” He then again shoves Finley into the truck, this time with enough force to dislodge his own body camera, which falls to the ground.

Over the course of the next several minutes, Mercado repeatedly uses profanity, lectures to Finley as if he were a child and claims that Finley is “hostile and aggressive.” Throughout all of this, Finley is remarkably calm, insisting over and over that he works for the railroad, and that he doesn’t understand why he was pulled over.

After pointing out multiple falsehoods in Mercado's incident report, Balko strives to put the whole contretemps in perspective:

It’s tempting to blow all this off as a single, insignificant incident in a small town. It isn’t Los Angeles’s Rampart, after all. Or Chicago’s systemized torture. But it also isn’t unique. There’s a steady stream of stories like this one. I was alerted to this particular story by a former police officer who now advocates criminal-justice reform. (He asked me not to use his name, for reasons that will be apparent in a moment.) I asked him: In his experience, how common is this sort of thing? His response:

"This is very common in policing. Looking back on my career, I realize just how often I acted similarly and didn’t even realize it. It was subconscious. I was trained and subtly incentivized to do so. You intentionally create conflict and manufacture noncompliance in order to build your stop into an arrest situation. Because that’s what generations of law enforcers who have been steeped in a fear-based, comply or else, us-vs.-them mind-set do. They arrest people. Arrests are a primary measure of productivity and gives the appearance your department has solved a problem.

"Most aggressive cops have honed this to an art. They are savvy, know exactly how to weaponize numerous petty laws, ordinances, use-of-force policy and procedure against citizens. This cop was off his game and clumsily went through the motions like a desperate door-to-door perfume salesman. Except when cops manufacture a “sale” like this, the “customer” ends up arrested, criminalized, emotionally and financially devastated, not to mention possibly physically beaten or worse. And the justice system will deem it legal, even when it isn’t.

"As far as the police leadership and prosecutors, they knew exactly what they were doing. If someone makes a complaint, you find something, anything to charge them with."

So, the thinking demonstrated by Officer Mercado and his chief is common in policing. And that should concern all Americans, of all colors and persuasions. Writes Balko:

Finley wasn’t shot, or choked to death, or found hanging in a jail cell. He didn’t suffer any permanent or lasting physical injury. Mercado didn’t even use racist or bigoted language. But Finley did everything he was supposed to. From the footage we can see and hear, he was polite, provided ID when it was asked of him and stepped out of the truck when ordered. Despite cooperating, he was treated poorly, detained and roughed up. When he then tried to file a complaint, he was harassed, and the chief of police attempted to turn his own wife against him — by citing video she hadn’t seen and that ultimately vindicated her husband. Yet even after viewing that video, city officials proceeded to prosecute. And even after the video was released, city officials maligned Finley in the press and insisted that the residents of Walnut Ridge believe the assertions of authority figures over the video evidence that contradicted them.

The “lesson” Finley learned here is pretty clear. Power usually wins. You can be as cooperative as possible, but if a police officer wants to dish out some abuse, he can. And he’ll probably get away with it. Try to hold him accountable if you’d like, but just know that doing so may come with a heavy price.

Once other public officials cover up for “bad apple” cops, the story is no longer about the bad apples. It’s about systemic failure. It’s about public servants willing to tolerate abuse because they’re more loyal to one another than to the public they serve. It’s difficult to say how someone in a position of authority — someone with the public trust — could view footage of the encounter between Mercado and Finley and proclaim they believe that the criminal charges against Finley were merited. Perhaps they were just lying. Or perhaps they were so blinded by deference to law enforcement, a fear of accountability or a knee-jerk defense of authority that they actually believe what they’re saying. I’m not sure which of those scenarios ought to worry us more.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Brian Benczkowski, Trump appointee to lead DOJ Criminal Division, has ties to Russia and Sessions, and insiders see him as a threat to Mueller investigation

Brian Benczkowski, behind Jeff Sessions
A Republican insider -- with ties to a Russian bank and the Don Siegelman case -- has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Donald Trump's choice to lead the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). One insider describes Brian Benczkowski as a "fixer" for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and multiple Democrats and news outlets have voiced concerns that the newest Trump appointee could help thwart the Robert Mueller investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal.

Jill Simpson, a whistle blower and retired attorney from northeast Alabama, had personal encounters with Benczkowski during investigation of the Siegelman case as a political prosecution, and she says it's hard to imagine a worse choice to lead the Criminal Division. Benczkowski was confirmed almost strictly along party lines. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) was the only Democrat to cross over and vote to confirm Writes Simpson, in a Facebook post:

Benczkowski goes back to the EADS Refueling Tanker deal with Oleg Deripaska that Sessions and Manafort and his partner, Rick Davis, at the time were trying to put through, and we, the Alabama Resistance, stopped it by seeing the stories we're told on the Refueling Tanker deal and saved 35,000 American Boeing jobs. Putting a Putin mole in as the chief of the criminal division when he has never tried a case is hoot. I guess all you have to do to get those jobs is kiss Jeff Sessions' and his Russian friend's asses.

This is the second time this week we've had news about a Trump nominee (or confirmee) whose appointment appears geared to protect the White House from the Mueller investigation. The first such news came Monday night with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. We've already learned that Kavanaugh can't even manage his own credit cards, in the name of buying tickets to Washington Nationals baseball games. Writes Mother Jones (MoJo), on the latest news about Benczkowski:

The Senate confirmed a top Justice Department official on Wednesday who could help oversee the Trump-Russia investigation, despite his own troubling connections to Russia and his close ties to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Brian Benczkowski, a former Senate aide to Sessions, was confirmed on a 51-48 vote to lead the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, a job that could give him sway over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Several Senate Democrats have argued that Benczkowski should be disqualified due to previous work on behalf of a Russian bank with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a general lack of experience in criminal law.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) points to several beneath-the-surface reasons for Benczkowski's nomination. From MoJo:

Whitehouse posits several ways in which Benczkowski could undermine the Mueller investigation from his perch atop the Criminal Division, which would give him insight into the investigation. He could share information about the probe with Sessions, who recused himself from the investigation, or with President Donald Trump’s legal team. He could also slow down the investigation by delaying or denying any requests that come to his desk.

And Whitehouse notes that the Trump administration is surely aware that the president could replace Rod Rosenstein with Benczkowski, since anyone confirmed by the Senate to any post can be temporarily appointed to other posts that typically require Senate confirmation. That would transfer oversight of the Russia investigation to him. “There are lots of nefarious explanations for why this guy at this time gets installed in a position with a window into the Mueller investigation,” he says.

Other Democrats have voiced similar warnings. “The Benczkowski vote could mark a pivotal moment in the Russia investigation,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) tweeted Tuesday, as the vote on the nomination approached. “The warning signs are clear.”

Jill Simpson, from her experience with the Siegelman case, has seen signs that Benczkowski simply is dishonest. From a second Simpson post at Facebook:

Benczkowski wrote a letter packed with lies about me when I went to D.C. to testify in 2007, and Scottt Horton did a piece about it at Harper's Magazineshowing what a liar Benczkowski was back then, taking his letter apart showing his lies, which we knew he did for Sessions because of the EADS deal he was protecting for the Russians. 
Now Benczkowski has been confirmed to be the chief of the DOJ Criminal Division,  which is a joke. I can't imagine why anyone would approve this known Russian-government employee ( lawyer for Russian-government Alfa Bank) liar. He is a known Sessions fixer; he fixed the Siegelman case, he fixed the Russian Election stuff for Russian Alfa Bank, so  Sessions could cover tracks at the Trump Tower. And now, Trump is giving him this job to fix the Mueller investigation . 
This one appointment shows that our DOJ is no longer reputable. I tried coming forward years ago to stop this [kind of thing] from happening. I am sad, but this will be a complete takeover of government when Russians essentially control the criminal division. Folks must rise up and say, hell no. I am speaking out as I was a direct victim of this Russian ass-kissing lawyer thug, as he wrote a bunch of lies against me when I came forward as a Siegelman witness.

Simpson has more about Benczkowski's affiliations with the corrupt "Alabama Gang," led by Jeff Sessions:

This is not my first rodeo with the very corrupt Mr Brian Benczkowski. Check what the then Sessions fixer Senate Judiciary DOJ staffer, Mr Breczkowski, did to us in the Siegelman case. He repeatedly lied in writing. This is an old article by Scott Horton on the Siegelman case that shows how corrupt a jerk Benczkowski is
He did this to us at the time for Alabama Gang leader Jeff Sessions, his corrupt boss at the time. Now he is set to head the Criminal Division of the DOJ. The guy has zero ethics and morals and would not understand the rule of law if it bit him on the ass. He is Jeff Sessions' fixer and has been for years. Mr. Mueller and his team need to stand against this appointment, or they will get caught in this fixer's trap. We in Alabama have long identified Brian Benckowski as a fixer for for Alabama Gang members, and we all need to stand up and tell all we know on him. This is my start on this Alfa Bank Russian mole bastard.

We reported here at Legal Schnauzer on Benczkowski's dubious actions in the Siegelman case, borrowing from the work of Scott Horton, legal-affairs analyst at Harper's: From that LS post of September 2007, not long after I started this blog:

Isn't it heartening to know that our public officials, particularly ones who take an oath to uphold the law and tell the truth, are capable of telling repeated falsehoods?

And we're not talking about lying in a casual conversation. We're talking about lying in a letter to Congress about matters that go to the very heart of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

That's what we citizens received when Brian A. Benczkowski wrote the DOJ's official response to a Congressional request for documents related to three cases that appear to involve politically motivated prosecutions. The prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is one of those cases.

It wasn't enough that Benczkowski essentially refused to comply with a request from the governmental body that funds his agency and writes the laws he and his colleagues are sworn to uphold. No, Benczkowski has to tell one lie after another.

Scott Horton, of Harper's, is just the guy to dissect Benczkowski's fact-challenged missive. Horton's verdict? In just two paragraphs, the DOJ's chief Congressional liaison tells seven whoppers. It's not easy to tell seven lies in such a small amount of space. But hey, this guy works in the Bush Justice Department.

How serious could the Benczkowski appointment be? Jill Simpson considers it to be extremely serious, and she levels one more blast:

Glad to see it is now coming to light that Jeff Sessions' former Senate Judiciary staffer Benczkowski (who sent an ugly lying letter to Conyers in the Siegelman matter) went and worked for Russian-owned Alfa Bank ( yes the one in Trump Tower that was believed to be sending info back to Russia for Trump Campaign Project Alamo Team and IRA ) after they got caught in the Steele Dossier investigation and the Alabama Project Alamo Election Stealing investigation. 
Now, Sessions wants his cleaner-fixer, Mr. Benczkowski, to head the Criminal Division of the DOJ. My guess is that it is to clean up for Sessions and Trump "the mess" (which is how the GOP refers to Mueller) at the DOJ. We at the Resistance have known of Mr Benczkowski's Russian hanky panky for a while, going back to Jeff Sessions' Senate days. It appears folks are on Mr. B's trail now, which is good, considering he is woefully unqualified for the job as head of the DOJ Criminal Division. He has zero experience as a civil or criminal litigator, and to our knowledge and the Democrats on the Hill in D.C.,  he's never even filed a federal appeal. 
In a normal Senate and Congress, Benczkowski would be disqualified due to his close association with the Russian government and his representation of the Alfa Bank. Jeff Sessions and Trump, with this appointment, are not fooling anyone; they are bringing in another Putin ass- kissing Russian mole buddy to fix the Mueller situation. But they are caught,  and, the story is out of the bag due to Rachel Maddow's courageous reporting. We at the Alabama Resistance love Rachel and thank God she is seeing the truth is told. 
Generally, the head of the criminal division of the DOJ often becomes, at a future date,  the head of the FBI. So it appears the Russian government is trying to install a former employee ( Alfa Bank job for Benczkowski) as head of the DOJ Criminal Division, with a possible trail to the FBI. This is breath taking to watch, and not in a good way. I wonder if any members of the GOP are loyal to country in D.C.,  or are they all corrupted by Russian money. This appointment is Russia's fix to protect Trump and Sessions. They paid this gentlemen very well to get them off the hook and to let Trump and Sessions off the hook, and sadly they are all Russian moles. These are Russia's useful idiots at the top of the collusion deal.

Alabama U.S. Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins screws up simple law in "Jail Case," proving she is a corrupt product of the Jeff Sessions/Richard Shelby sewer line

Virginia Emerson Hopkins
William M. Acker Jr. is dead and gone -- thank God -- but Virginia Emerson Hopkins seems hell-bent on claiming his title as the worst federal judge in Alabama, certainly in the Northern District. How is she doing it? By dismissing our "Jail Case" -- the one based on my unlawful five-month incarceration in Shelby County -- on grounds that aren't even close to being correct under the law.

It's pretty hard to dismiss the Jail Case, based on the facts or law. It's a matter of public record that I was, in fact, kidnapped from inside my home (no warrant, in violation of state law, the Fourth Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court finding in Payton v. New York), and defendants were among those responsible for it. No one can seriously argue the arrest was lawful, given that Rob Riley and Liberty Duke filed a bogus defamation claim, seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction that have been prohibited as prior restraints under more than 230 years of First Amendment law.

Since Hopkins -- whose husband (Anniston lawyer Chris Hopkins) essentially bought a judicial seat for her, by giving generously to Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions -- can't cheat us on fact or law, how does she do it? By butchering simple procedural and statutory law that an orangutan should be able to get right. (Hopkins' "judgment," our Rule 59 motion in response to it, and an amendment to our Rule 59 motion are embedded at the end of this post.)

You might recall that Hopkins hardly has a judicial temperament, as we showed in a post about her screaming fit, for about 20 minutes, at Fultondale attorney Greg Morris when he appeared to represent us at a Rule 26 planning meeting. Now, we can show Hopkins doesn't have the brains or the integrity for the job, either. Given what we've learned about interference in the Jail Case from the Alabama State Bar, it would not be a surprise if Hopkins were collaborating with bar officials to cheat us.

Hopkins' first line of deceit involves the statute of limitations (SOL). She dismissed all six of our federal claims -- First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, False Arrest, False Imprisonment, and Excessive Force -- by finding that we filed our complaint after the two-year statute of limitations for claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 had expired.

It is standard around the country that the time bar for a Sec. 1983 claim is based on each state's statute of limitations for personal-injury cases. In  Missouri, that is five years; in Alabama, it's two years. So, it's undisputed that our case, in fact, is governed by a two-year SOL. But that is not the only time-related matter at hand. There also is the small matter of when the SOL begins to accrue. In other words, when does the two-year clock start clicking on a Sec. 1983 claim in Alabama, or any other state?

To answer that question, one must turn to federal law. Here is how the U.S. Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) put it in a case style Kelly v. Serna, 87 F. 3d 1235 (11th Cir., 1996):

“Deciding what statute of limitations applies to this action gets us only half way to our destination. Secondly, we must decide at what point the applicable statute begins to run. A statute of limitations begins to run when the cause of action accrues. Accrual of a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is a question of federal law.Mullinax v. McElhenney, 817 F.2d 711, 716 (11th Cir.1987).

As the Eleventh Circuit put it, Hopkins decided only half of the issue. Her memorandum opinion gives no hint that she even considered the second half -- the accrual half, which is extremely important, especially in a case where false imprisonment is alleged.

You might recall that I was incarcerated for more than five months -- from Oct. 23, 2013 to March 26, 2014. As you probably can imagine, being in jail cuts one off from the world. In the Shelby County Jail, inmates did not even have access to a functioning writing implement (a pen could be used as a weapon) or pieces of paper. Federal courts recognize this and have adopted a special rule that applies to cases involving allegations of false arrest/imprisonment. The U.S. Supreme Court has spelled out this rule, as has Restatement of Torts, a compendium of U.S. common law, which applies in courts across the country.

Here is how the nation's highest court put it in a case styled Wallace v. Kato, 549 US 384 (U.S. Supreme Court, 2007):

“The statute of limitations in a § 1983 suit is that provided by the State for personal-injury torts,e.g.,Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-250, 109 S.Ct. 573, 102 L.Ed.2d 594 . . . For false imprisonment and its subspecies false arrest, "[t]he... cause[s] of action ... provid[ing] the closest analogy to claims of the type considered here," Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 484, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383, the statute of limitations begins to run when the alleged false imprisonment ends, see,e.g., 4 Restatement (Second) of Torts § 899.”

The Northern District of Alabama already has correctly interpreted and applied the law, in a case styled Antonio James v. City of Birmingham (ND of AL, 2012). From James:

“As to Count Two, alleging false imprisonment, the “running of the statute of limitations on false imprisonment is subject to a distinctive rule-dictated, perhaps, by the reality that the victim may not be able to sue while he is still imprisoned: "Limitations begin to run against an action for false imprisonment when the alleged false imprisonment ends.’” Wallace, 549 U.S. at 389 (quoting 2 H. Wood, Limitation of Actions § 187d(4), p. 878 (rev. 4th ed. 1916).

You'd think that Hopkins might be able to figure out that a judge in her own building already has correctly applied the law regarding accrual of the SOL in a case alleging false imprisonment. But you would be wrong. You'd also think Hopkins might be able to consult Restatement of Torts, a volume that probably is found in every law library -- even in podunk counties -- around the country. You would be wrong about that, too.

In fact, Restatement of Torts provides probably the most clear and concise description of the matter -- and again, this is the U.S. common law, which applies all over -- and that's why we filed an amendment to our Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. We wanted to provide the most plainly understood version of the law, in hopes that Hopkins and opposing lawyers in the case -- almost all of whom claimed our lawsuit was untimely filed -- might be able to grasp it. From Restatement of Torts:

“For false imprisonment, the statute [of limitations] begins to run only when the imprisonment ends, since the period of imprisonment is treated as a unit." Restatement (Second) of Torts § 899, (1979). See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. at 389,127 S. Ct. 1091 ("The running of the statute of limitations on [common-law] false imprisonment is subject to a distinctive rule—dictated, perhaps, by the reality that the victim may not be able to sue while he is still imprisoned."). The Restatement.

Law does not get much more clear and simple than that. Our Rule 59 motion is pending, so we will see if Hopkins can figure it out. Our guess is that she won't even try; she appears to be so bereft of integrity that she likely will figure out some other way to cheat us.

The law and the numbers, however, do not lie. Here is a summary, involving the dates in question:

* All parties involved agree that Alabama's two-year statute of limitations governs this Sec. 1983 case;

* Hopkins ignores federal law -- as stated by the U.S. Supreme Court and Restatement of Torts -- that governs when our complaint accrues, when the clock starts ticking on the two-year SOL;

* I was arrested on Oct. 23, 2013, so Hopkins wrongly claims our clock started ticking then -- that our complaint had to be filed by Oct. 23, 2015;

* But I was incarcerated for more than five months -- released on March 26, 2014 -- and under the law cited above, accrual of our complaint began on that date;

* Hopkins admits our complaint was filed on March 26, 2016, which means it was timely per Kato and the Restatement. 

It will be interesting to see if Hopkins continues to get this wrong because, if she does, that is a criminal act -- one that almost certainly is driven by extrajudicial forces that should have forced her disqualification from the case many months ago. Hopkins likely is tippy-toeing over the line of the nation's racketeering laws, involving obstruction of justice and other criminal acts. We've seen evidence that suggests officials with the Alabama State Bar also have stepped into RICO land.

We'd say Hopkins, and her cronies at the state bar, are dancing in dangerous territory, but we're not sure they are smart enough to understand that.

As for the second ground upon which Hopkins wrongfully dismissed our Jail Case, we will examine that in an upcoming post.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hideously corrupt U.S. judge William Acker Jr. has "kicked the bucket," a step forward for justice in Alabama, a state that remains a judicial sewer

William M. Acker II
Just when you are rid of perhaps the worst federal judge in Alabama history, along comes another who seems hell-bent on proving she is just as bad.

In a rare piece of good news on "justice" in the Deep South, William M. Acker Jr., 90, died on June 21 after spending 34 years as a "judge" in the Northern District of Alabama -- the last 20 on senior status, before his full retirement in 2016. The wrinkled Reagan appointee had been on the federal bench in Birmingham since 1982.

Acker is the judge who cheated me raw in my First Amendment/discrimination lawsuit against UAB. Many of the ugly events that have happened to my wife, Carol, and me in the past six or seven years -- my kidnapping and incarceration; loss of our home of 25 years in Birmingham to wrongful foreclosure; our unlawful eviction in Missouri; Carol's shattered arm, requiring almost eight hours of trauma surgery (thanks to Greene County deputies) -- would not have happened if Acker had handled the UAB case lawfully.

Perhaps the best part about Acker's death is that it might allow for revival of my lawsuit against UAB. Wouldn't that be a hoot if the SOBs (and daughters of bitches, DOBs?) who thought they got away with cheating me the first time were to see my complaint slapped on their desks -- or wind up in their mailboxes, for those who no longer work at the university? It could happen.

The original case was not a hard case to decide, given that UAB human-resources official Anita Bonasera admitted in a tape-recorded phone call that I was targeted because of my reporting on this blog about the Don Siegelman case. But Acker, being a Bastard-Coated Bastard With Bastard Filling (BCBWBF), repeatedly ruled contrary to black-letter law -- and he even had the audacity to state in open court that he was going to cheat me, and then he did it. Naturally, his corrupt cronies on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta backed him up in a "Do Not Publish" opinion -- which is a little trick federal judges use to cheat certain litigants without screwing up the actual law in federal reporters.

The late Monroe Freedman, a Hofstra University professor who was considered the father of modern legal ethics as an academic subject, said he was sick of seeing crooked opinions like the one Acker produced in my case. From Freedman:

Frankly, I have had more than enough of judicial opinions that bear no relationship whatsoever to the cases that have been filed and argued before the judges.

I am talking about judicial opinions that falsify the facts of the cases that have been argued, judicial opinions that make disingenuous use or omission of material authorities, judicial opinions that cover up these things with no-publication and no-citation rules.

Freedman said that in a 1989 speech, and the quote made me feel like I was in awfully good company in reporting on scoundrels, like Acker, on the federal bench. Freedman died in 2015, and judicial corruption only got worse during the later years of his life.

As for the Northern District of Alabama, I've learned in recent weeks that Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins, who reportedly retired to senior status in June, might be just as crooked as Acker. We will deal with her in upcoming posts. But for now, let's tell the world that William M. Acker Jr. was a hideous criminal, and the world is a better place now that he's dead.

An American tradition is that we speak kindly (and falsely) of the dead, no matter how big a BCBWBF he was in real life. That applies to Acker, as you can see from this article about his death at

Colleagues of retired United States District Judge William M. Acker, Jr., are remembering him this week as a brilliant and compassionate jurist who ruled on a variety of cases during a three-decade career on the federal bench.

"Brilliant and compassionate," my ass. You will notice the article includes only quotes from fellow judges and lawyers -- none from parties who had cases before Acker. I wish they had asked me for a quote. Here is what it would have been.

I consider Bill Acker to be a worse criminal than Jarrod W. Ramos, who killed five people in the recent newspaper shooting at Annapolis, Maryland. At least Ramos had the decency to use his own money to purchase his weapon. Even the worst mass killers generally do that. But not Bill Acker and his fellow judicial crooks. They use taxpayer money, in taxpayer-funded facilities. to cheat taxpayers who have cases before them -- all the while treating constitutional rights like they were used toilet paper and showing utter disrespect for the rule of law. In other words, Acker steals your money to buy a gun and shoot you with it. Hell, Jarrod Ramos almost certainly has more integrity than that. 

How badly did Acker screw me on the UAB case? I've written several lengthy posts on that subject (see here, here, and here), but it boils down to this. He granted the university summary judgment, without discovery, in clear violation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Eleventh Circuit precedent, as outlined in Snook v. Trust Company of Georgia, 859 F. 2d 865 (11th Cir., 1988). From Snook:

"This court has often noted that summary judgment should not be granted until the party opposing the motion has had an adequate opportunity for discovery. . . . The party opposing a motion for summary judgment has a right to challenge the affidavits and other factual materials submitted in support of the motion by conducting sufficient discovery so as to enable him to determine whether he can furnish opposing affidavits. . . . Generally summary judgment is inappropriate when the party opposing the motion has been unable to obtain responses to his discovery requests."

Law doesn't get much more direct and simple than that. I filed at least three motions to inform the court that discovery had not been conducted, and Acker admitted in open court that he was aware of that, and I was entitled to conduct discovery to counter UAB's motion for summary judgment.

We've reported on at least one of Acker's judicial colleagues in the Northern District of Alabama who knows the law on discovery and summary judgment and has applied it correctly multiple times. We've reported that  Acker himself has correctly applied the law in multiple cases. He just didn't do it in my case, and that's probably because he knew political thugs had pressured UAB to unlawfully terminate me, and Acker chose to protect those thugs. Specifically, Acker likely was protecting GOP cretin Rob "Uday" Riley and his associates, who were the driving forces behind my cheat job at UAB. We recently have uncovered evidence that suggests the Alabama State Bar might have been involved, too.

Speaking of Rob Riley, I'm not the only litigant Acker cheated in the name of protecting the son of former Alabama GOP Gov. Bob Riley.  He did much the same thing in a whistle blower case on which we reported, where Rob Riley's company (and individuals tied to UAB) reportedly were engaging in health-care fraud. The plaintiff's Mississippi lawyers were left so amazed at Acker's unlawful rulings that they hardly knew what to say. They did say it might be possible to re-bring the case later, "but we'll have to wait for him to die."

Well, thank God, that time has arrived, although a send-off remains on schedule for Acker. According to an obituary at, a "celebration" of Acker's life will be at 11 a.m. on July 28 at Highlands United Methodist Church. How do you "celebrate" the life of a publicly funded criminal? From the obit:

Judge Acker was known for his humorous limericks and writings but most particularly for his legal writings. Two weeks before his death, although nearly blind, he completed a law review article which will be published in the Cumberland Law Review in the near future.

Acker was a funny guy? Tell that to the parties he cheated in court. Acker almost went blind near the end of his life? Let's hope he enjoyed his time in near darkness, and maybe he learned something from it -- like karma really can be a bitch.

As for the possibility of reviving my UAB lawsuit, I'm still researching that topic -- but I think it is a possibility. In terms of new evidence, all evidence in the case is new because Acker did not allow any discovery the first time around. This much is certain: If my UAB case winds up back on the docket, William Marsh Acker II won't be hearing it.

Before we leave, let's pay tribute to Dr. Perry Cox, the memorable character from Scrubs who created a classic phrase we borrowed above. Here's the video:

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Jeff Sessions started gay affair with Bill Pryor while the latter was in college, explaining Pryor's ascendancy to the federal bench and his falling star as SCOTUS pick

Bill Pryor and Jeff Sessions in a
1996 photograph
Trump Attorney General and former U.S. Sen. (R-AL) Jeff Sessions commenced a homosexual affair with federal judge Bill Pryor while the latter was in college, according to a recent report from a D.C.-based investigative journalist. That probably is the No. 1 reason Pryor sits on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and has been mentioned twice as a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

It also might explain why, when Donald Trump last night announced Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, Pryor's name was nowhere to be found. When Trump had to fill the late Antonin Scalia's seat, Pryor initially was seen as the favorite. But as word spread that he had posed nude for photographs that wound up at the gay-porn site in the late 1990s, Pryor's star seemed to fade -- and he finished a distant third, with Neil Gorsuch, of Colorado, getting the nod.

When the Kennedy seat recently became open, Pryor's name again surfaced as a candidate, in some quarters. But he quickly fell off the leader board, and reportedly was not among the seven candidates that Trump interviewed.

Is that, in part, because of our reporting -- which has spread to sites across the nation -- about Pryor's ties to gay porn via That seems likely. But it's also possible that political insiders, including some on Team Trump, are learning that the Pryor/Sessions relationship is disturbing -- even perverse. And we now are learning that the perversity goes back much farther than originally thought.

Nothing in Pryor's background suggests he is, or ever will be, an outstanding judge or legal thinker. But as journalist Wayne Madsen points out, Pryor has enjoyed the consistent support of Sessions, and that has little, if anything, to do with Pryor's legal qualifications. It appears to have almost everything to do with Sessions and Pryor being closeted gays -- with Sessions willing to take advantage of a young man when he was barely out of high school.

It all raises this ugly question: Did Jeff Sessions commit acts with Bill Pryor that come close to defining him as a child sexual abuser?

Pryor grew up in Mobile, while Sessions has spent much of his professional life in that coastal Alabama city. We have reported on nude photographs of Pryor that wound up on the gay-porn Web site in 1997. We have reported that Alabama law enforcement -- because of concerns that Pryor's hidden lifestyle could make him vulnerable to blackmail as the state's attorney general (or as a federal judge, a position for which Pryor already was angling) -- conducted surveillance that showed Sessions making frequent late-night visits to Pryor's apartment in Montgomery. We also reported that the Obama administration threatened to use information about Sessions' secret life to make sure he did not block the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.

But Madsen's latest report adds important new insight to the peculiar Sessions-Pryor relationship, which is particularly timely as Sessions remains near the center of the Robert Mueller investigation, and evidence grows that Pryor lied to Congress during his confirmation hearing to the federal bench. Our reporting tied the Session-Pryor sexual relationship to the late 1990s, but Madsen reports that it started much earlier than that -- when Pryor was a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe), from 1980-84.

All of this is ironic, of course, because Sessions and Pryor have taken ardently anti-gay, conservative positions in their right-wing political lives. From a 2017 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, by reporter Bill Rankin:

Pryor, 54, has called Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case legalizing abortion, the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.” And he once wrote that the right to engage in same-sex relationships would “logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia.”

As for Madsen, this is from his article, published June 28-29, at Wayne Madsen Report (a subscription-only Web site), which focuses primarily on the Anthony Kennedy retirement and his possible successor:

Another potential Kennedy replacement is William Pryor, Jr., now serving on the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Pryor is subject to blackmail, something that Trump would find to his own advantage. Pryor is a close personal friend and longtime apprentice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Several Alabama sources claim that in 1980, Sessions, who was 34 at the time, began a gay relationship with Pryor, then an 18-year old student at Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe. Pryor also allegedly posed nude for a gay magazine during his college years. In 1997, as Alabama Governor Fob James was announcing Pryor's appointment as Attorney General of Alabama, replacing Sessions who was elected to the U.S. Senate, the photos appeared in a gallery of college-aged boys, titled "WizardBoy Pix," on a gay website called

Sessions was pushing for Pryor to be nominated to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by the 2016 death of Antonin Scalia. Scalia died while participating in a Valentine's Weekend hunting and orgy fest at the Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas. Trump, instead, opted for Gorsuch.

Pryor has denied the photos on the gay website are of him, however, they were salacious enough to have caused the Alabama Bureau of Investigation to report their existence to Governor James after he appointed Pryor to fill the Attorney General vacancy left by Sessions. There were enough doubts about Pryor's past to cause 45 senators to vote against his 2005 nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

We sought comment from Pryor and Sessions' spokesperson, Sarah Isgur Flores. They did not respond to our queries.

Meanwhile, we have tracked down multiple individuals who knew Pryor at Northeast Louisiana, mainly from participation in the band and work-study jobs. They say the photos definitely are of the Bill Pryor -- and one describes Pryor as "flamboyant" in his homosexuality while in college. Several posts on this topic are coming soon.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Richard Shelby's July 4 trip to Russia likely was driven by thoughts of Arctic oil-drilling riches and the need for more meddling to help GOP in 2018 U.S. election

Richard Shelby in Russia
A Republican delegation, led by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), likely visited Russia over July 4 to seek help with the 2018 midterm elections and to restore a $500-billion Arctic oil-drilling deal, according to a source with deep knowledge of modern-era relations between Alabama and Russian political figures.

Jill Simpson, a whistle blower and retired attorney from northeast Alabama, says Shelby's actions -- as a lead-in to talks between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, amount to treason. From a post at Simpson's Facebook page:

As a person who spent over 11 years tracking the corrupt Alabama Gang's involvement with the Russians, I am not the least bit surprised Shelby led a group of GOP folks to Russia this past week, trying to cut the GOP a deal with Russia on the Arctic drilling deal that will make Putin and Russia $500 billion from Exxon and keep the GOP the majority party in the U.S. . . . It is ridiculous Shelby would try to make like we could be friends with the Russians again, when we outright know they stole and meddled with the 2016 election. Yes I said stole as their false propaganda caused a shift in the vote. I might add Shelby, it appears, is another American politician grifting on the Russians. That is treason. He should be jailed for it.

This is a story of international breadth, but it hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer. We recently asked this question: Could Russian interests be involved in the abuse that has been directed at my wife,  Carol, and me -- in two states, Alabama and Missouri? That question might seem far-fetched to some, but when you consider the documented ties to Russia of leaders in both states . . . well, it seems like a 50-50 proposition, at least to me.

In terms of Alabama, we asked the question while thinking of former U.S. Senator (R-AL) and current Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions, GOP lawyer and political thug Rob Riley, and former Business Council of Alabama head Bill Canary. All three have well-established ties to Russia. (Also, see here and here.)

Richard Shelby's Russia connections might be less overt than those of Sessions and Co., but they are old news to insiders, says Simpson:

It has been well known for years in Alabama that Shelby's former Senate employees (like Stewart Hall), plus the Riley bunch got tied into Oleg Deripaska through Haley Barbour's BGR Group, which worked directly for the Russian government and Oleg. The roots of this Russian mess in Alabama start with Rick Davis (Paul Manafort's former partner and an Alabama good ol' boy), Sessions, Shelby, Canary, Riley, Haley Barbour's BGR Group, and Twinkle Cavanaugh, who was GOP chairperson at the time this all started.

Manafort's legal problems -- he currently is facing a criminal trial in the Robert Mueller investigation -- might have prompted Shelby's mission to Russia. And it all could lead to more Russian meddling in a U.S. election. Writes Simpson:

The Alabama Resistance tracked and outed their mess with the Manafort Davis firm in 2007 and 2008, plus we released pictures of the situation of secret meetings from all over the world. We also tracked their Russian mess in 2016, with Manafort and Bannon and Cambridge Analytica. 
These guys really should be locked up for treason. We at the Alabama Resistance are very worried [the Shelby group] may have negotiated new meddling with the Russians for our 2018 elections. Since Manafort was locked up, it appears the GOP senators may have had to take a more direct line of action with Russia, in an effort to retain their Senate majority. Never in the history of the US have we seen such treason at the surface.

Russian drilling platform
 As for the Arctic-drilling deal, many informed observers say that was the No. 1 reason Putin helped steal the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump. Plans for exploration went on hold when the United States hit Russia with sanctions in 2014 following the invasion and annexation of Crimea. Writes Simpson at another Facebook post about Shelby's July 4 GOP mission to Russia:

They were over there trying to cut themselves and their party a deal to get support in the 2018 election is what most Russian government watchers believe. Also, we are going to be watching closely the $500-billion Arctic drilling deal; it will become obvious if this bunch tries to help Trump put it through. We will resist. We are watching what appears to be treason at the top level of the government, led by a member of the corrupt Alabama Gang. I might add most Russia watchers believe that Trump was put in to give Putin the $500-billion Arctic drilling deal. That will never happen. As the planet will be in danger, and a whole lot of world leaders will stand up to Trump and Putin.

If Jill Simpson is on target -- and Robert Mueller should turn his attention to the driving forces behind Richard Shelby's mission to Russian -- well, that could place an unpleasant ending on an Alabama political legacy.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Bridgette Gentry Marshall's death remains under investigation in Murfreesboro, TN, with no official ruling of suicide and confusion about firearm recovery

Steve and Bridget Marshall
The death of Bridgette Gentry Marshall remains under investigation and has not officially been ruled a suicide, according to a report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR).

Ms. Marshall, the wife of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, died on June 24 in Murfreesboro, TN, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But the case still is open, with no official finding of suicide and no mention in police reports that a firearm was recovered, reports APR's Josh Moon. From the article:

The investigation into the death of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s wife remains an open case in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and police officials there would not answer on Monday whether Bridgette Marshall’s death has officially been ruled a suicide.

Additionally, Murfreesboro Police will not disclose basic details about the firearm used in Marshall’s death, and the official police report omitted any mention of the recovery of the weapon.

What to make of the report's failure to mention that a firearm was recovered? That's hard to figure, and Moon writes:

APR was told by multiple current law enforcement officials who viewed the MPD report that leaving the recovery of the firearm — along with at least a general description of the weapon recovered — off the police report was odd. In light of those statements, APR contacted MPD to inquire about the weapon and why it wasn’t listed on the report.

MPD spokeswoman Officer Amy Norville told APR on Monday that a firearm was recovered by police at the scene, but she said, “we are not releasing the information about it because the investigation is still ongoing.”

When asked to clarify whether MPD had officially listed the cause of death as suicide, Norville responded: “According to the Detective on the case he has not closed the file, so it is still listed as an open investigation.”

How did such confusion enter the picture on the Marshall death? Moon explains:

On that initial report, the first officer on the scene, Eric Deleon, wrote that after discovering Marshall’s body on the couch inside an apartment on Puckett Creek Crossing, he contacted MPD’s Criminal Investigations Division, which took over the scene. Deleon listed “suicide” underneath a section of the report entitled “Description of Offense.”

According to law enforcement sources, that is likely not MPD’s official determination on the case, but was how officers initially viewed the incident. Additional evidence may or may not change that evaluation prior to an official designation.

APR requested to speak with an MPD official, and also asked specifically if the department still viewed Marshall’s death as a suicide, but neither question was answered.

According to the Tennessee Medical Examiner’s Office, an autopsy was performed early last week, but the results will not be available for several weeks.

Steve Marshall, who was appointed by scandal-plagued former Gov. Robert Bentley, faces a July 17 runoff against former AG Troy King. The winner will take on Democrat Joseph Siegelman in the Nov. 6 general election.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Maryland judges treated alleged shooter Jarrod W. Ramos lawfully in defamation lawsuit that apparently helped spark deadly shooting at Annapolis newspaper

Jarrod Ramos
Judges acted lawfully in dismissing a defamation lawsuit brought by alleged quintuple murderer Jarrod W. Ramos, in a case that apparently helped spark Ramos' deadly shooting spree last week at an Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper. Records show Ramos was not close to having a valid defamation claim -- in fact, he had no legal case at all -- but judges treated him with exceptional courtesy, even though some in the community already recognized him as a dangerous and threatening guy.

That's ironic because we've written 10 years worth of posts here at Legal Schnauzer about solid citizens, from all walks of life, who courts greeted with unlawful rulings, even hostility. (See Don Siegelman, Sherry Carroll Rollins, Paul Minor, Linda Upton, and Carol Tovich Shuler, for examples.)

Ramos sued the Capital Gazette for its coverage of a 2011 criminal harassment case, where he pleaded guilty and received a 90-day suspended jail sentence, with 18 months of supervised probation. The charge stemmed from Ramos' vulgar and threatening behavior toward a former high school classmate, a young woman, he encountered on Facebook.

Staff writer Nick Hartley wrote a story for the Gazette about the harassment case, titled "Jarrod wants to be your friend," and Ramos responded by suing Hartley, editor and publisher Thomas L. Marquardt, and the newspaper's parent company.

Ramos represented himself, pro se, and one problem with his lawsuit should have been readily apparent to anyone with the slightest knowledge of defamation law -- or the ability to look up central elements of the tort at a library, or on the Web. Journalists generally are legally "privileged" to report on official proceedings and public documents -- upon which many of our Legal Schnauzer posts are based.

That means, even if false information is presented in a court case or other official proceeding, a journalist is privileged to report it, as long as he does so accurately and with fairness -- in other words, if he reports both sides of the case, as presented in court.

In Alabama, the privilege is spelled out statutorily at Code of Alabama 13A-11-161.  At case law, Wilson v. Birmingham Post-Herald, 482 So. 2d 1209 (1986) spells out the privilege:

It is undisputed in the instant case that the Post-Herald news report at issue constitutes a fair and accurate report of the statements made by two Cuban refugees to the Birmingham Police Department in the course of an official investigation and summarized in the official police incident report. [Reporter Kathy] Biele was present during the interrogation. According to the sworn affidavits of two police officers present, the news report at issue accurately reflects the investigation and the police incident report. There is no suggestion in the evidence to the contrary. The news report, therefore, is conditionally privileged under § 13A-11-161 and the common law.

Not only did Ramos ignore the journalist's privilege to report on public and official proceedings, he brought a case that, overall, was preposterously weak. How weak was it? That question can be answered by examining the appellate case, Ramos v. Hartley, et al (MD Court of Special Appeals, 2015). Consider some of the issues raised in the appellate opinion:

(1) Ramos failed to serve defendants with the complaint, filed an amended complaint after the statute of limitations had expired, and provided the court with almost no information:

On July 23, 2012, just one week before the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations, the appellant filed his initial complaint, charging the appellees with defamation, in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County ("the July Complaint"). The appellant failed to serve a copy of the complaint on the appellees. . .

There was no supporting documentation or affidavit submitted with the complaint. On October 9, 2012, and over two months after the statute of limitations for a defamation claim had expired, the appellant filed a fuller complaint ("the October complaint"). Instead of four bare-bones paragraphs, the October complaint was one of 22 pages. The October complaint also added the charge of invasion of privacy.

(2) Due to the service and statute-of-limitations issues, the appellate court expressed doubt that Ramos had any case at all, much less a viable defamation claim:

Although we have serious reservations over whether the October complaint can be found to relate back to the July complaint and is, therefore, even cognizable, it is completely unnecessary to anguish over this nuance in the filing chronology. But see, Crowe v. Houseworth, 272 Md. 481, 485-86 (1974); Fischer v. Longest, 99 Md. App. 368 (1994). Even the fuller October complaint, assuming its viability, palpably fails to state, as the hearing judge found and ruled, a chargeable offense. One solid reason for affirming the trial court is enough. Scott v. Jenkins, 345 Md. 21, 28 (1997) ("Plaintiff must allege sufficient facts that, if prove true, would support every element of the asserted claim.")

(3) Despite the weakness of Ramos' case, trial judge Maureen M. Lamasney gave him a hearing and listened respectfully to his arguments. We've seen signs for years that many citizens, who come to court with valid claims or defenses, often are not treated in such fashion:

On November 26, 2012, the appellees filed a Motion by Defendants to Dismiss with Prejudice the Complaint and a Request for Hearing. A full hearing was conducted by Judge Maureen M. Lamasney on March 29, 2013. The appellant's complaint was that he had been defamed in a newspaper article about his having pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal harassment. At the motion hearing, Judge Lamasney probed the appellant to point out a single statement in the article that was actually false or to give a single example of how he had been harmed by the article. He could not do so. Judge Lamasney's ruling was clear.

(4) Ramos could not point to any false information in the Capital Gazette article. No kidding. Here is a colloquy between the court and Ramos:

"THE COURT: "All right. Mr. Ramos, I'm going to grant the defendant's motion to dismiss this case. And it will be dismissed with prejudice. And I'm going to grant it for the following reasons: You are required in your complaint to state a claim with sufficient specificity.

"MR. RAMOS: Your Honor —

"THE COURT: I'm talking now.

"MR. RAMOS: Yes, I'm sorry.

"THE COURT: And dismissal is proper only if the facts and inferences, even if proven, would not entitle the plaintiff to relief. And that is what I am finding in your case, that you do not lay out a prima facie case for defamation or for invasion of privacy, or being placed in the false light.

"And the reason I'm finding that is that there is absolutely not one piece of evidence, or an assertion by you that the statement was false. . . .

"You know, I understand exactly how you feel. I think people who are the subject of newspaper articles, whoever they may be, feel that there is a requirement that they be placed in the best light, or they have an opportunity to have the story reported to their satisfaction, or have the opportunity to have however much input they believe is appropriate.

"But that's simply not true. There is nothing in those complaints that prove that anything that was published about you is, in fact, false. "It all came from a public record. It was of the result of a criminal conviction. And it cannot give rise to a defamation suit.

(5) The court explained, fully and succinctly, why Ramos' lawsuit was dismissed -- and the explanation was on point with the law:

"MR. RAMOS: If I understand correctly, then the basis is that there's not a showing of falsity?

"THE COURT: Correct.

"MR. RAMOS: And rather that there is an application of privilege.

"THE COURT: Correct, both that the article was simply not defamatory, that it was based on public record, that you haven't alleged that it was false, and that the article appears to be substantially accurate, and it would fall into the privilege which would make any complaint unsustainable, because they reported a criminal case. They reported a matter of public interest."

(6) The appellate court summarized the reasons that Ramos' claim was a clunker from the outset:

A discussion of defamation law would be an exercise in futility, because the appellant fails to come close to alleging a case of defamation. In his five-page brief, the appellant devotes two and one-half pages to legal argument. He never alleges that any basic fact contained in the article about his guilty plea is actually false. He claims only that "Hartley's column fails the test of fairness because he editorialized on the story's meaning." There is no allegation of any specific harm that he suffered as a result of the article. He simply described the harm as "incalculable, unforeseen, and potentially unknowable." That does not do it.

The appellant is pro se. A lawyer would almost certainly have told him not to proceed with this case. It reveals a fundamental failure to understand what defamation law is and, more particularly, what defamation law is not. The appellant is aggrieved because the newspaper story about his guilty plea assumed that he was guilty and that the guilty plea was, therefore, properly accepted. He is aggrieved because the story was sympathetic toward the harassment victim and was not equally understanding of the harassment perpetrator. The appellant wanted equal coverage of his side of the story. He wanted a chance to put the victim in a bad light, in order to justify and explain why he did what he did. That, however, is not the function of defamation law.

The appellant was charged with a criminal act. The appellant perpetrated a criminal act. The appellant plead guilty to having perpetrated a criminal act. The appellant was punished for his criminal act. He is not entitled to equal sympathy with his victim and may not blithely dismiss her as a "bipolar drunkard." He does not appear to have learned his lesson.