Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Attacks on a free press don't just involve Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia; Legal Schnauzer has been targeted in Alabama and Missouri -- and we urgently need your donations to stay in the battle

Jamal Khashoggi
(NoteLegal Schnauzer needs your help. Loyal readers have sustained this blog for years, and support is especially needed now that my wife, Carol, is recovering from a fainting spell, which led to a broken arm last week. The healing process has started for Carol, but her doctors indicate this likely was fallout from political thugs cheating both of us out of our jobs [and health insurance] in Birmingham -- and the stress of dealing with financial wreckage that comes with being targeted for right-wing attacks.  If you are able to help us along our journalism journey, please click on the yellow donation button to the right, under the "Support the Schnauzer" headline. We are deeply grateful for your support through the years.)

U.S. coverage on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has tended to have a "Yes, that is horrible, but it can't happen here" tone. That notion, however, is misplaced. It can happen here, and it has happened here. I know because I'm a U.S. journalist who has been targeted and abused, very much in the way Khashoggi was targeted.

Evidence suggests Alabama thugs intended to kill Carol and me -- and did not only because Carol managed to avoid capture. (See here, here, and here.) We still fear for our lives every day, just as Jamal Khashoggi did.

Roger Shuler mugshot
A free press is not attacked only in places like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Bulgaria. (Bulgarian journalist Viktoria Marinova was raped and murdered on Oct. 9.) It has been happening in the United States for a while, and the attacks -- along with associated court corruption -- have left us nearly destitute.

Abuse came for my wife, Carol, and me in two American states -- Alabama (where we lived as a married couple for 25 years) and Missouri (where we have been forced to live as refugees for more than four years) -- and it started between 2008 and 2013, long before Donald Trump took office. Alabama has an ugly history of being "ahead of the curve" on white privilege and extremism, and the Missouri Ozarks aren't much different; I refer to the southern half of the Show Me State as "Alabama with snowballs."

Neither Carol nor I has been beheaded or dismembered -- yet -- but we have the bruises and broken bones to show that American thugs mean business when they try to shut down a free press. In October 2013, Alabama deputies broke into our home in Birmingham, slammed me to a concrete floor three times (much like the "body slam" of a Montana journalist that Donald Trump celebrated to much laughter at a recent rally), doused me with pepper spray, and hauled me for a five-month stay at the Shelby County Jail -- making me the only U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006, and likely the only journalist in U.S. history to be arrested over a preliminary injunction that has been an unlawful "prior restraint" under more than 230 years of First Amendment law.

Carol Shuler
This all was over a 100 percent civil matter -- with no criminal allegations -- involving a bogus defamation lawsuit that GOP political thug Rob "Uday" Riley and his "close friend," lobbyist Liberty Duke, filed in an effort to shut down this blog. To this day, my reporting on the Riley-Duke relationship never has been found to be defamatory, as a matter of law.

Here is some irony that hits close to home: Khashoggi was murdered while visiting the Saudi consulate in Turkey to obtain a document that would allow him to get married. His wife-to-be was waiting outside in a vehicle while Khashoggi, according to multiple reports from Turkish officials, was being dismembered alive inside the consulate. In essence, Saudi butchers used Khashoggi's desire to get married against him.

U.S. thugs have done much the same thing to Carol and me. Here in Missouri, thugs concocted an eviction that was unlawful in at least 10 ways as an excuse for throwing us on the streets and causing almost all of our possessions to be stolen. In the process, a thug-cop we call "Mr. Blue Shirt" viciously slammed Carol to the ground and yanked on her arms in an upward and backward motion, breaking her left arm so severely that it required eight hours of trauma surgery and almost six months of physical therapy.

Have the cops taken any responsibility for what they did? Hah, are you kidding? They brought bogus "assault of a law enforcement officer" charges against Carol, falsely hinted she broke her own arm by flailing about while handcuffed in the back seat of a patrol car, and stuck us with a bill of several thousand dollars for medical expenses.

Yes, you heard that right: In the U.S., cops can beat you up (when they had no lawful grounds to be on the property), break your arm, blame you for it, and leave you stuck with the bill. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

X-ray of Carol Shuler's
broken arm
The bottom line: Freedom of the press has been under assault in the United States for at least 10 years, especially in right-wing hot spots like Alabama and southern Missouri. As I've read about the Khashoggi case, it's been stunning to see how many similarities there are between his case and our experiences.

Carol and I believe it is possible to turn the situation in America around, to make this a country where constitutional rights and the rule of law are respected and protected. We plan to be part of the fight to make that happen, but we need a roof over our heads and a few of life's necessities, like food.

Your donations will be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

U.S. judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins -- determined to cheat us in "The Jail Case," but with no ammunition to do it -- plays the pathetic "We Just Disagree" card

Virginia Emerson Hopkins
Judges have all kinds of ways to cheat you -- many of which we have covered on this blog -- but I recently discovered a new one. This comes under the heading of a "News You Can Use" tip, so it could come in handy for you someday.

Imagine you are involved in a legal case, and you (or your attorney) make a citation to law that you know is correct -- and you know it's a winner. You know this because . . . well, (A) You can read; and (B) It involves legal issues that are present in your case.

You, however, are dealing with a crooked judge so what can he do? You've boxed him into a corner. But he wants to cheat you, and he can't counter with a legal argument because you are right -- and he knows it. So, the judge issues an order that says he "disagrees" with your citation to law -- and that's it. No explanation, no citation to law that shows you are wrong (this isn't an option because there is no such citation). Nothing. Just "I disagree," maybe with a little dig at your status as a commoner who cannot possibly understand the mystical vagaries of the law.

It all reminds me of "We Just Disagree," the 1977 hit from English singer-songwriter Dave Mason, who performed with Traffic, Fleetwood Mac, Steve Winwood, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, and at least two former Beatles.

Who could turn a classic song into an evil courtroom sham? Leave that to U.S. Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins, of the Northern District of Alabama, who is so crooked that she's creepy -- and to my knowledge, I've never seen her. She must squeak when she walks from all the oil and grease dripping off of her.

Hopkins' disagreeable con game came in her order on our Rule 59 Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment in "The Jail Case," which centers on my wrongful arrest (a kidnapping, really) and five-month incarceration in Shelby County, Alabama. (The Rule 59 motion, two amendments to it, and Hopkins' order are embedded at the end of this post.)

Hopkins dismissed our complaint primarily on two grounds: (1) Statute of limitations, claiming we had filed the lawsuit too late; and (2) State immunity, claiming deputies, under the Alabama Constitution, are protected from suit -- even when they intentionally, maliciously, and violently break the law.

Dave Mason
We cited law in our Rule 59 motion and its amendments that shows, without question, Hopkins is wrong; our complaint was timely filed, and state immunity does not protect deputies who break into a home (without showing a warrant, stating they have a warrant, or stating their reasons for being there), beat up a resident and douse him with pepper spray, threaten to break his arm, and haul him to jail -- all over a 100-percent civil matter, a defamation lawsuit, that involved not one whiff of criminal allegations or procedure.

In other words, we backed Hopkins into a corner, where she could not counter with a valid citation to law. So, what did she do?

(1) She cited law -- correctly by the way -- that governs Rule 59 motions. From her order (Doc. 168-1, dated 8/27/18):
Rule 59 motions should only be granted on grounds of newly discovered evidence or manifest error of law or fact. Jones v. Thomas, 605 Fed. App'x 813 (11th Cir., 2015).
(2) Since our Rule 59 motion and amendments presented 74 pages of examples where Hopkins committed "manifest errors of law or fact," she could not explain all of that away. So, she didn't even try. Here's what she did, directly from her order:
Plaintiffs do not assert that there has been any change in controlling law or that there is newly-discovered evidence. Rather, they assert that the undersigned has made errors of law and of fact. The undersigned has carefully considered all of the arguments that the Plaintiffs have made but disagrees. Plaintiffs simply misunderstand either the opinion or the law or both. Accordingly, the Motion To Alter Judgment is due to be denied.
As you can imagine, Hopkins was not about to admit that she made 74 pages worth of errors. And she could not back up her rulings with actual citations to law. So, she resorted to what we now will call "The Dave Mason Trick." It involves a judge essentially saying, "There ain't no good guy, there ain't no bad guy; there's only you and me, and we just disagree."

Note the little dig that we "simply misunderstand the opinion or the law or both." That's a curious way of putting it, given that Hopkins seems to be admitting there is a difference between her opinion and the law.

She sure as hell is right about that, and we will show you why in an upcoming post.

For good measure, let's check out a video of Dave Mason performing "We Just Disagree." The video has more than 7 million views, and they don't make songs like this anymore:

(To be continued)

Monday, October 29, 2018

After a "news week from hell," Americans must wonder what the world is coming to; our experiences of recent vintage paint a picture that is disturbing, unnerving

Accused mail bomber Cesar Sayoc
(Note: Legal Schnauzer needs your help. Loyal readers have sustained this blog for years, and support is urgently needed now that my wife, Carol, is recovering from a fainting spell, which led to a broken arm last week. The healing process has started for Carol, but her doctors indicate this likely was fallout from political thugs cheating both of us out of our jobs [and health insurance] in Birmingham -- and the stress of dealing with financial wreckage that comes with being targeted for right-wing attacks. 

(We believe our kind of fearless reporting is essential in helping Alabama [and many other states] become the kind of place where constitutional rights are protected for everyone -- rather than having favors dished out to a select few. If you are able to help us along that journey, please click on the yellow donation button to the right, under the "Support the Schnauzer" headline. If the payment options there do not work for you, please contact us at, and we would be glad to make other arrangements. We are deeply grateful for your support through the years.)

We have been through one of the most horrific news weeks in modern American history, and it all has a Groundhog Day quality here at Legal Schnauzer. That's because many of today's headline-grabbing stories include elements that we have experienced in our battles against courtroom and political corruption over more than 18 years in two states -- Alabama and Missouri.

In a 72-hour period on the domestic landscape, we've had: (1) A mass shooting, targeting Jews and killing 11, at a Pittsburgh synagogue; (2) The arrest of a mail bomber, who sent suspicious packages to individuals and organizations he apparently considered to be enemies of Donald Trump; and (3) The deadly shooting of two black customers at a Kentucky grocery store, after the shooter failed to break into a black church.

All of that does not include the abduction, torture, murder, and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was attacked at the Saudi consulate in Turkey while trying to obtain documents related to his impending marriage. The Khashoggi killing could be labeled an international incident, but he worked for The Washington Post and apparently was targeted for opinions he expressed in that U.S. newspaper.

The trail of trauma probably has many Americans asking, "What's the world coming to?" We don't have a tidy answer to that question, but we do know the alarming trends did not just manifest in the past week or so. We've seen them brewing for years, as we have fought mostly far-right corruption in the Deep South and Midwestern Ozarks. Consider some comparisons:

Attacking the free press

The Khashoggi killing and the mail-bombing campaign, for which a Florida man named Cesar Sayoc is charged, involved attacks on a free press. Khashoggi expressed critical opinions about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and paid for it with his life. Sayoc's targets apparently included the CNN building in New York City.

Legal Schnauzer has been attacked because of our
journalism, and I have the mugshot to prove it.
But attacking journalists in the U.S. is not new; I have first-hand experience with that. In October 2013, I was the target of an unlawful arrest and five-month incarceration in Shelby County, Alabama, all connected to a 100-percent civil matter with no hint of criminal allegations. And it came after unflattering and accurate reports here on a number of GOP thugs -- including Karl Rove, Bill Pryor, Rob Riley, Liberty Duke, Luther Strange, and Jessica Medeiros Garrison. None of my posts ever has been found defamatory, as a matter of law, in court.

This was five years ago, long before hardly anyone imagined that Donald Trump might wind up in the White House.

Criminality and causation

Cesar Sayoc, the accused mail bomber, has an extensive criminal record, with nine previous arrests. We can identify with that. Our legal travails started when an individual named Mike McGarity moved next door to us, and after proving that he was a bully and a threat-maker who was impervious to reason, we learned he has a criminal record, with at least eight convictions (including sex- and violence-related offenses).

McGarity long has worked at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, and it remains unclear how he slipped through the cracks of a company that, as a federal Medicare contractor, is supposed to conduct extensive background checks on potential employees.

Mental illness and family dysfunction

Gregory Bush, charged with the Kentucky shootings, has a history of mental illness, according to press reports. Mail-bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc was enraged at his mother and driven to support Trump because of that, according to a report at the Daily Beast.

Scene of Saturday's Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
Mike McGarity, our former neighbor, is the product of a dysfunctional family, where all four boys have criminal records -- and we have documented that in multiple posts. (See here, here, and here.)

Tribalism and democracy

Earlier this month, a research group released a report about growing tribalism in the age of Trump. From The Atlantic's George Packer, in his analysis on the rise of tribal thinking:

We live in a time of tribes. Not of ideologies, parties, groups, or beliefs—these don’t convey the same impregnability of political fortifications, or the yawning chasms between them. American politics today requires a word as primal as “tribe” to get at the blind allegiances and huge passions of partisan affiliation. Tribes demand loyalty, and in return they confer the security of belonging. They’re badges of identity, not of thought. In a way, they make thinking unnecessary, because they do it for you, and may punish you if you try to do it for yourself. To get along without a tribe makes you a fool. To give an inch to the other tribe makes you a sucker.

We noticed this trend in summer 2016 and used two terms, "The New Confederacy and "Conservative Tribalism," to describe it. (Also see here.) Our reports centered on the criminal trial of former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, and here is how we described the disturbed mindsets that were on display:

[The Hubbard trial] was about the kind of mindset that has come to hold back many areas of the Deep South, not to mention other states where Southern thinking tends to hold sway. We are thinking of Great Plains or Midwest states, such as Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah.

What is this mindset all about? We have broken it into two parts -- one called "The New Confederacy," and the other called "Conservative Tribalism." Both were on display in the Mike Hubbard trial.

"The New Confederacy" includes individuals who tend to self-identify as "patriots," even though they reject fundamental tenets of the U.S. Constitution. These modern-day confederates tend to especially reject the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection, which became part of America's constitutional landscape after the Civil War.

From 1866 to 1868, Southern states bitterly opposed ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Hubbard trial showed that many Southerners, especially elites, still despise the principles of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Here is more from our 2016 posts:

Conservative Tribalism, to a great extent, is at the heart of the legal difficulties that my wife, Carol, and I have experienced . . . and gave rise to this blog.

What do we mean by tribalism? Here is one of the most useful definitions I've seen:

Tribalism is the state of being organized in, or advocating for, a tribe or tribes. In terms of conformity, tribalism may also refer in popular cultural terms to a way of thinking or behaving in which people are more loyal to their tribe than to their friends, their country, or any other social group.

For our purposes, the key element is this: Members of a tribe are more loyal to that unit than to most anything else, including their country and its laws, constitutions, and governing concepts. In our experience, tribalism has been particularly evident among those who identify as conservative. But I have little doubt that liberal and moderate tribes are out there as well.

How is this for irony? George W. Bush, our most recent "conservative" president, led us into wars in two countries -- Afghanistan and Iraq -- that have been dysfunctional for decades (centuries?) largely because of tribalism. Bush supposedly tried to bring democracy to countries where it had almost no chance to thrive -- because tribalism was likely to keep it from taking root.

Tribalism, in fact, might be the single greatest threat to American democracy, and we will have more on this subject in an upcoming post.

(To be continued)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Carol is released from Cox South Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri, but battery of tests reveal no medical cause for fainting spell that led to broken arm

Carol Tovich Shuler
My wife, Carol, was released from a Missouri hospital last night, but a battery of tests did not reveal a medical cause for her fainting spell at the Social Security Administration Building in Springfield on Tuesday morning.

The tests included exams of Carol's head, heart, lungs, blood, and more, but no abnormalities were found that could cause her to pass out. Doctors and nurses said high stress levels and improperly treated anxiety and hypothyroidism were the most likely causes of what they call syncope.

One certainty is that Carol has a broken humerus in her left arm, near the shoulder. She has a followup visit scheduled with an orthopedist, and we expect to learn then if her injury will require surgery.

Why have Carol's medical conditions been improperly treated? That goes back to both of us being cheated out of our jobs -- her at Infinity Insurance, me at UAB -- and our health insurance. It also goes to judges unlawfully dismissing our employment discrimination cases in the Northern District of Alabama. Being cheated in the workplace and in court has repercussions, and Carol's fainting spell is a classic example of that.

As for stress, we've already mentioned what Alabama political/legal criminals did to us at Infinity and UAB -- all in retaliation for accurate reporting on this blog, especially about the Don Siegelman case. Consider a few of the other slightly stressful events we've experienced, all of which amount to an attack on the First Amendment and America's free-press protections:

(1) My unlawful arrest and five-month incarceration in Shelby County, Alabama, making me the only U.S. journalist to be jailed since 2006 and likely the only one in American history to be targeted in a 100-percent civil matter, involving a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, which have been unlawful prior restraints under more than 230 years of First Amendment law. This came after unflattering and accurate reports on a number of GOP thugs -- including Karl Rove, Bill Pryor, Rob Riley, Liberty Duke, Luther Strange, and Jessica Medeiros Garrison. None of my posts ever has been found defamatory, as a matter of law, in court.

(2) The theft of our Birmingham home of roughly 25 years, via a wrongful foreclosure.

(3) An unlawful eviction in Springfield, MO, which included Greene County deputies threatening us with assault weapons and assaulting Carol so severely that her left arm was shattered just above the elbow -- a comminuted fracture that required about eight hours of trauma surgery and six months of physical therapy.

X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm,
from 2015, courtesy of Missouri cops.
(4) Bogus "assault of a law enforcement officer" charges against Carol, brought by Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott and Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson -- even though the alleged victim admitted in both written and oral statements that Carol committed no such offense.

(5) A guilty finding in Carol's case from Judge Jerry Harmison Jr., even though it had no basis in fact or law. Harmison is so incompetent and crooked that his order did not mention the offense Carol supposedly committed -- did not outline the elements of the so-called "crime."

(6) Multiple cheat jobs in federal and state courts on the above-mentioned issues, and more.

(7) All of the above led to mounting financial pressures that have caused us to struggle in recent weeks to keep a roof over our heads.

The good news, for now, is that Carol is home and resting comfortably, and we are working to get her back on a proper medication schedule. We will have other issues to consider in the coming months, but the focus now is on the healing process.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A medical emergency strikes the Schnauzer family, one more example of fallout that comes from being targeted by legal and political criminals in Alabama

Carol Shuler
We have been dealing with a medical emergency in the Legal Schnauzer family for the past 24 hours or so, and that's why we had no post yesterday -- with only an abbreviated one today.

The event involves my wife, Carol, and it happened in a public place -- the Social Security Administration Building on West Battlefield in Springfield, Missouri --  at about 10 a.m. on Tuesday. An ambulance was called, and EMTs recommended -- probably based on Carol's extreme disorientation --- that she be taken to the Cox Medical Center South ER.

It's a good thing they made that recommendation -- and we followed it -- because tests revealed a number of potential problems. I'm going to hold off on details because Carol was kept at the hospital overnight for observation, and there still is a lot I don't know.

But this much is clear: Carol broke a bone in her left arm -- the same one that Greene County deputies shattered so severely in September 2015 that it required about eight hours of trauma surgery and roughly six months of physical therapy to repair. Was Carol more susceptible to Tuesday's injury because of police brutality she experienced three years ago? There is no doubt in my mind that the answer is yes.

One preliminary finding yesterday suggested the Alabama bastards who cheated us out of our jobs -- me at UAB, Carol at Infinity Insurance -- contributed greatly to Carol's injury. Like many people, our health insurance was tied to our jobs, and when we were cheated in the workplace -- and the evidence is overwhelming that I lost my job because of coverage at this blog on the Don Siegelman case (a UAB human-resources official inadvertently admitted that to me in a tape-recorded phone call) -- and Carol was cheated out of her job because she was married to me. It probably didn't help her situation that at least one prominent member of Alabama's corrupt Riley machine was on the board of directors where she worked.

X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm
from 2015. That injury might have
led to another one yesterday
Bottom line: We've been without health-care coverage for about nine years -- and we've been struggling mightily in recent weeks to keep a roof over our heads after losing our home in Birmingham to a wrongful foreclosure, which was tied to my unlawful arrest and incarceration from 10/23/13 to 3/26/14. Those two factors have combined to create a level of untreated stress that, health-care providers said, likely contributed to yesterday's event.

Yes, you read that correctly: Carol's medical emergency yesterday came five years to the day that Shelby County Sheriff thugs broke into our home, beat me up, doused me with pepper spray, and hauled me to jail over a 100-percent civil matter that did not involve a whiff of a criminal allegation. If you want to grasp how grossly unlawful that is, I encourage you to read a U.S. Supreme Court case called Payton v. New York, and this post we wrote about issues Payton addresses.

My blogging likely will be off schedule for a number of days, with limited opportunities for posts and likely not many chances to moderate comments. I hope to provide updates as information becomes available. This is another example of the fallout that comes when political and legal thugs heap abuse on a couple simply because I've reported accurately on the many ugly and inconvenient truths at the heart of Alabama's court and political systems.

We appreciate any and all healing thoughts you might send our way.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Author Craig Unger: Trump and Putin found each other in the wreckage of the Soviet Union, and their agenda has U.S. democracy teetering on the brink

Craig Unger and "House of Trump, House of Putin"

Donald Trump's ties to the Russian mafia -- and his ability to launder money for them via various properties -- goes back at least 35 years, according to the investigative author of a new book.

Craig Unger's House of Trump, House of Putin probably stands with Bob Woodward's Fear as the two most important books so far on Trump's ascendancy to the White House. In an interview with Salon's Chauncey DeVega, Unger says it is astonishing that Trump rose to lead the United States, given his long-term ties to a foreign adversary and his deals with shady money men from Russia. Let's check out highlights from the interview:

Trump businesses as an instrument for money laundering

Chauncey DeVega (CD): Given all that is publicly known about Donald Trump and his suspicious connections to Russia -- never mind his anti-democratic behavior -- on a certain level it is surreal and almost unbelievable that he became president and has not yet been removed from office.

Craig Unger (CU): It is astounding. When John Brennan lost his security clearance the contrast was so stark -- there is no way in the world Donald Trump would have received a security clearance, and he is president of the United States. Donald Trump has had contacts with the Russian mafia for 35 years. His properties have laundered money for them. The Russian mafia are connected to Russian intelligence. They’re living and have been working in Trump's building. Trump has even partnered with them. There are so many ways in which he’s compromised. As you say, I think it’s all on the public record. The Republicans are also implicated. As I explain in my new book, the Russians didn't just go after Donald Trump: They went after the entire Republican Party. There is Russian money going into the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the NRA, and then to Republican officials and candidates directly.

The media and murky money

CD: Why has the American news media been largely unable to effectively explain to the public the threat Trump embodies to the country and the world?

CU: The news media is so fractured and factionalized. Therefore there is no shared national narrative. For example, let’s say MSNBC gets it right at times. But that still leaves hundreds of millions of Americans who are not getting the message. The Trump-Russia story is also complicated but the news cycle is too fast. Plus, it is fragmented by social media. So it’s very hard for people to draw back and see the big picture. The news almost never offers the deep background into how this whole Trump-Russia scandal began.

Putin uses the Russian mafia as a weapon. This is part of the geopolitical conflict. This is many ways goes back to the ending of the Cold War. It wasn’t really over. Most Americans do not understand that fact. Yes, the Soviet Union crumbled but Russia didn’t give up. The KGB sat there and waited. They started various companies. You have at least four billionaires with those connections who ended up partnering with Donald Trump 25 years later.

I think one of the powerful unseen forces here is that at the end of the Soviet Union, you suddenly have trillions of dollars that have to be laundered. It opened the floodgates for the Russian mafia and for the oligarchs. A good way to launder that money is through real estate. Trump made it clear he was ready, willing and able to do that without asking any questions. Trump was $4 billion in debt after his casinos failed in Atlantic City. He came back thanks to the Russians.

The late 1980s, and the rise of Donald Trump's presidential ambitions

CD: Donald Trump's relationship with Russia is not new. When they looked at Donald Trump back in the 1980s what did they see?

CU: First of all, the Russians had a history of looking at influential businessmen. It appears that Russian intelligence also saw him as a presidential candidate. That surprised me. I was here in New York as a reporter in the 1980s, and I didn’t think of Trump as a presidential candidate. When Trump first visited Russia in 1987, he immediately came back and took out full page ads in The New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post. These ads were very anti-NATO, anti-Western alliance, and that was exactly what the Russians want. It is so striking that Trump would do that over 30 years ago. It is almost as if Trump had been channeling those ideas and serving the KGB's aims way back in 1988.

Trump, Putin, The Apprentice, and the collapse of the Soviet Union

CD: After the fall of the Soviet Union, Putin takes control. How does he develop a relationship with Donald Trump?

CU: It did not occur in a personal way at first. Everything happens through proxies. They are enormously important. Going back to 1984 -- this was when Putin was still in the KGB -- Trump had started laundering money for the Russian mafia. In ‘92, the Russian mafia had people like Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov, who was one of the key figures under the mob boss Mogilevich. The FBI was looking all over for him but he was actually in Trump Tower. A lot of the Russian mobsters were going to Trump Tower as well, presumably to launder money as well. So you saw this budding relationship. Trump was completely overextended in Atlantic City. He ended up $4 billion in debt. He had no future at all until the Russians came to his aid.

I think a lot of people get the chronology wrong and think Trump came back because of The Apprentice. But The Apprentice didn’t start until 2004. By 2002, a company called Bayrock Group LLC had moved into the 24th floor of Trump Tower. They began partnering with him. They made Trump an offer that he could not refuse. It was a completely different paradigm from his old business relationships. Suddenly Trump started dealing with cash and he couldn’t get bank loans except some from Deutsche Bank. He was so bankrupt that almost no Western bank could loan him a dime.

Trump and the GOP give Putin a much-needed boost

CD: What do the Russians want from Donald Trump? He would not have been given all of those huge sums of money without some expectations, either implied or explicit.

CU: This is why I think you have to look at the geopolitics and the history of the entire operation. If you go back to the Cold War, Americans simply thought we won. The Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union folded. Well, it’s not that simple. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, one Eastern bloc nation after another began tilting towards the West and joining NATO. When Putin came to power, he wanted to fight back, to regain some of that ground. Putin wanted to do battle with the Western alliance. With Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin found one of the few Americans who wants to destroy the Western alliance. He has been quite consistent on this point of view. But somehow he and the rest of the Republicans have taken it to heart and that is the direction they’re moving in as well. It’s been great for Putin and I think that’s exactly what he wanted.

Can Democrats save us from a dangerous and compromised president?

CD: I have described Donald Trump's White House as the "Kremlin on the Potomac." Do you think that is accurate?

CU: It’s so much darker than anything I could imagine. When I grew up, one of the great movies was "The Manchurian Candidate." It was about a conspiracy to install a brainwashed communist as president of the United States. What has happened with Trump rivals "The Manchurian Candidate." It is actually hard to imagine, but this is where the United States and the world are right now. I’ve always been reluctant to use words like "treason" or "fascism" to discuss Donald Trump. But I think we’ve entered a very dark period in American history. We can't turn this around and save the country from Donald Trump and his allies unless the Democrats win Congress in the midterms.

What happens when the Mueller report is released and feces hits the fan?

CD: When Mueller's report is released, what do you think will and should happen? I am concerned that of course Trump's supporters will say it exonerates him, no matter how damning the evidence is. Trump's opposition will see Mueller's report as confirming their worst fears. There will be no closure, only more discord and perhaps even potential violence and large-scale civil unrest.

CU: I won't speculate on the contents of Mueller's final report. But I will say that we need to have a shared national spectacle. Everyone needs to see the same thing. That’s not happening right now. A couple of weeks ago, there was one of these spectacular news days surrounding the Russia investigation, and in all, it was a horrible day for President Trump. I wanted to see how Fox News was covering it. They had an item on whether a giraffe is actually a mutant horse. Huge parts of the country are in the dark. Fox News has been incredibly successful in dumbing down a large part of the American electorate. That is something we’re going to have to change.

A democracy at risk?

CD: How would you explain to the average American why Donald Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin and other Russian interests is so important?

CU: This goes to the heart of whether or not we’re a democracy. I believe that Vladimir Putin selected and chose the president of the United States to do his bidding. That is an existential crisis for the United States. Americans better wake up, because our democracy is at risk

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Steve Marshall takes campaign cash from 3M, then refuses to join other states in suing the Minnesota polluter, suggesting he isn't fit to be Alabama AG

Steve Marshall and Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley,
the disgraced governor who appointed him. 
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has taken $2,500 in campaign donations from 3M Company at the same time he refuses to join other states in suing the Minnesota-based polluter. Does this point to criminal activity by Alabama's chief law-enforcement officer? The answer is "maybe." Does this point to a short-sighted, compromised, unethical attorney general? The answer is "definitely."

Alabama Political Reporter (APR) broke the story of Marshall's cozy relationship with 3M and noted that his response had been mostly to feign ignorance and attack reporters who ask pesky questions on the subject.

Records from the Alabama Secretary of State (SOS) show 3M gave Marshall $2,000 on 9/7/2018. The company gave $500 on 4/3/18. 3M is just one of several polluters to dump cash into Marshall's coffers. (Records showing the 3M donations are embedded at the end of this post.)

How could this be criminal? If it involves a "quid pro quo" (something for something) agreement -- such as, "We will contribute to your campaign if you promise not to sue us"-- that would appear to constitute federal funds bribery under 18 U.S.C. 666. That's the same statute under which former Alabama governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy wrongly were convicted and sent to federal prison for roughly six years each.

It's ironic, then, that Marshall's Democratic opponent is Joseph Siegelman, Don's son. When the 3M funds are combined with $735,000 in illegal contributions Marshall took from the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA, former employer of Jessica Medeiros Garrison, one-time campaign manager and mistress for former AG Luther Strange), it raises serious questions about the incumbent's fitness for office.

We have no doubt that Joseph Siegelman is the better candidate, and APR publisher Bill Britt seems to leaning in the same direction, with an editorial about Marshall's dubious donations from RAGA. Writes Britt:

RAGA is not registered with the state and commingles its funds with other political action committees, masking the donors contrary to Alabama law. Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton knows Marshall’s contributions were unlawful, so does Secretary of State John Merrill, but no one is willing to act. Even Marshall himself is on the record saying the type of contributions he received from RAGA are illegal and banning such contributions was, “the only legal protection standing between Alabama voters and the reality or appearance of quid pro quo corruption.”

Perhaps the larger question for the Commission and the Alabama Republican Party is should a candidate who willingly takes illegal campaign contributions be allowed to remain on the ballot? . . .

The right remedy in the Marshall situation lies with the Alabama Republican Party, which is responsible for pursuing such violations and taking appropriate action, but the so-called party of law and order has taken a pass on the Marshall fiasco, choosing to remain silent.

Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan and the Executive Committee could end the charade by immediately moving not to certify Marshall’s votes in the upcoming general election. Of course, this would mean conceding the race to Democrat Joe Siegelman. This might not be palatable, but how much more bitter is a win by cheating?

Since the party will not act on the issue, it falls to Ethics Commission Chairman Judge Jerry Fielding who can swiftly move to bring the Marshall matter before the Commission. . . .

It is now time for the commission to act because the people have a right to know if their attorney general is a cheat.

As for 3M, its donations to Marshall are about as smelly as those from RAGA. Writes APR's Josh Moon:

When the attorney general of Minnesota learned of the years of pollution dumped from a 3M plant into his state’s waterways, he filed a lawsuit demanding the company clean up its mess.

A few years later, on the eve of the trial, 3M settled, agreeing to pay $850 million to make Minnesota’s water clean again.

Michigan has followed suit, with its Republican governor asking his attorney general to also file suit against 3M.
At least three other states have also filed lawsuits against the company, with court records documenting decades of pollution and also concerted efforts by 3M and other polluters to mask the dangers of that pollution.

Alabama isn’t one of those states.

Oh, we have the pollution. Testing near a 3M plant in Decatur has shown high levels of pollutants similar to the ones in Minnesota and Michigan, and it has left residents in Lawrence and Morgan counties afraid to drink their tap water.

But Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall isn’t filing a lawsuit.

Instead, he’s busy threatening reporters and pretending like he has no clue about the three-year-long ordeal.

Does Marshall deal with such issues in a forthright manner? Nope, he draws a page from the Donald Trump playbook and blames the press for his own shortcomings. Writes Moon:

Multiple sources have confirmed to APR that a spokesperson in Marshall’s office, communications director Mike Lewis, contacted WHNT-TV station, at Marshall’s direction, to complain about reporter Chelsea Brentzel, who is the station’s lead reporter on the ongoing water issues in north Alabama.

Brentzel’s mistake: Accurate reporting.

With residents clamoring about the water situation, she and WHNT have produced multiple stories, asking for comments from multiple state officials. That included Marshall, whose office continually ignored their requests for comment.

The one time Brentzel was able to corner the AG, back in July, to ask if any legal action was planned, he said the Alabama Department of Environmental Management hadn’t told him to file a lawsuit.

But when Brentzel quoted Marshall’s opponent, Joseph Siegelman, in a recent story saying he would take action if elected and questioning Marshall’s lack of action, suddenly the station couldn’t get the AG’s office off the phone.

Sources familiar with the calls said Lewis, at Marshall’s direction, complained about Brentzel’s recent story, calling it “political.” Because making sure the people of the state can drink their damn water is political now.

And then there was the threat.

Lewis informed the WHNT bosses that the AG’s office planned to freeze out Brentzel and would no longer respond to her requests, according to the sources.

Heck, 3M is just one of several polluters who appear to be playing footsy with Steve Marshall. Consider a few others who have dumped cash on him, per SOS records:

* International Paper PAC -- two donations totaling $5,000

* Koch Industries (Wichita, KS) -- two donations totaling $10,000

* Monsanto (St. Louis, MO) -- one donation of $1,000

* McWane Inc. -- two donations totaling $20,000

* Coalbed Methane Association of Alabama -- four donations totaling $4,000

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

RICO lawsuit is looming in the case of Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome, and it could bring shock waves to the seedy Alabama judicial world in 2019

Burt Newsome
A brewing federal lawsuit could shine white-hot light on some of the bad actors who have helped turn the Alabama legal/political landscape into a sewer.

An Atlanta law firm is preparing a lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and it is expected to hit the dockets in 2019, according to a report at The complaint is expected to center on Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome and efforts by Birmingham's Balch Bingham law firm to essentially steal his lucrative collections practice and ruin his law business.

The RICO case also has the potential to unearth all kinds of misconduct that has gone uncovered (so far) in the North Birmingham Superfund scandal, which featured Balch Bingham in the center ring, with numerous political behemoths revolving in various orbits above.

Does anyone believe Balch partner  Joel Gilbert, Drummond Co. VP David Roberson, and former state lawmaker Oliver Robinson were the only criminal actors in that scam? Was Jay Town, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, more interested in protecting certain political heavy hitters -- yes, you Richard Shelby, Jeff Sessions, Luther Strange, and Jabo Waggoner -- than achieving full and comprehensive justice?

The Newsome RICO case, with Buddy Parker of Atlanta's Maloy Jenkins Parker firm reportedly at the controls, could answer those questions and many more. Meanwhile, a lawsuit involving Newsome is dragging through state courts in what has described as "a corrupt and unconstitutional Star Chamber," presided by Judge Carole Smitherman. For good measure, has documented about $30,000 in donations that have gone to Judge Smitherman and her husband, State Sen. Rodger Smitherman -- from Balch-affiliated individuals or entities. Hmmm . . .

Somebody must be nervous about all of this because the Newsome family has been the target of what appears to be an orchestrated terror campaign, the kind of thing you would expect from those associated with organized crime. The RICO statute, appropriately enough, is designed to combat organized crime -- of which there is no shortage in Alabama.

Who should be nervous about the looming Newsome RICO case? provides a fascinating list of possibilities:
A ground-breaking expert on money-laudering, Buddy Parker, Newsome’s RICO attorney, is looking at all the moving parts and intricate details, even the mundane aspects of the case that may have been overlooked, or unknown to observers, including us.

Persons and entities of interest we are learning about (some for the first time):

* Alabama State Representative Jim Hill, an attorney who represents co-conspirator John W. Bullock, and Hill’s ties (as a former judge) to the Alabama Judiciary System.

* John W. Bullock and his business the Pink Variety Store near Pell City, Alabama.

* Diane Bullock, the ex-wife of John Bullock.

* Virginia Voitus, an alleged girlfirend of John Bullock, and former bank teller.

* Alabama Power’s Government Affairs Department and employee Melissa Black.

* Scott, Sullivan, Streetman, and Fox, P.C. the law firm that has remained silent even though associate Robert M. Ronnlund has allegedly engaged in criminal obstruction of justice and alleged alteration of evidence.

* The detectives at the Calera Police Department including one who allegedly verbally disparaged Newsome over the phone. Calera Police was the agency that provided a statement (not sworn nor under oath) calling the pre-paid cell phone number connecting all the co-conspirators “a routing switch.”

* The Alabama Supreme Court and Associate Justice William B. Sellers, a former Balch  Bingham partner.

* State Senator Rodger Smitherman and Judge Carole Smitherman who have received over $30,000 in questionable campaign contributions. Judge Smitherman presides over the secret Star Chamber.

* The Columbiana Police Department which pulled over and arrested Newsome in May of 2013. Newsome was pulled over after attending a publicly-known court hearing.

* Verizon and alleged employee Jason Forman.

Behind-the-scenes ugliness already is in play, according to

We learned what appears to be the most damaging evidence is alleged witness tampering and intimidation by alleged “racketeers” linked to Balch Bingham.

One of the key witnesses to the Newsome Conspiracy Case was allegedly told not to provide testimony or evidence and then was eventually and abruptly fired.

Could the RICO case present a powder keg that is set to blow up in the faces of powerful and corrupt Alabama interests, come 2019? suggests the answer is yes:

Ironically, every move hidden or unhidden, done inside the secretive Star Chamber or not, we are told only helps Newsome. With 44 retaliatory orders signed by Judge Smitherman, and the cast of dubious characters rejoicing with every questionable filing, antic, motion, and lop-sided “victory” (including the unsolicited responses to the Alabama Supreme Court about Newsome’s Writ of Mandamus), only help solidify the civil RICO case. 
Although they may not find a “briefcase full of cash,” the intricate details, alleged money-laundering, and manipulation of the Alabama legal system (including law enforcement) should create a solid civil RICO case that will fundamentally impact not only Balch Bingham, but the entire judiciary system in Alabama.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Citizens and legal analysts need not worry about Brett Kavanaugh's apparent lack of impartiality because the federal bench already is infested with crooked judges who treat the concept of fairness to all parties as a joke

Brett Kavanaugh

In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh's partisan rant before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a number of legal observers have expressed concerns about his ability to hear cases in an impartial manner.Based on our experience with federal courts, which goes back about 10 years, they should not worry. U.S. federal courts are infested with judges who make no attempt to rule with impartiality -- with quite a few making no attempt to even appear impartial. That means Kavanaugh should be an appropriate fit on the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

Kavanaugh will sit near the top of a system that was crooked long before he became a household name, and his presence isn't likely to make it any more crooked than it already was.

Perhaps the most corrupt federal judge we've encountered is Virginia Emerson Hopkins, from the Northern District of Alabama -- and to top it off, she has the judicial temperament of a wolverine. She makes Brett Kavanaugh look like Fred Rogers.

In fact, while the Kavanaugh fracas was playing out, we received an order from Hopkins in our "Jail Case" that is a model for crookedness on the postmodern federal bench. Given that Hopkins has consistently ruled contrary to black-letter law -- always against us -- it's the latest sign that Hopkins would not know impartiality if it bit her in the ass. (Hopkins already has issued wildly unlawful rulings in the case on the statute of limitations and state immunity issues.)

Again, why worry about Brett Kavanaugh on SCOTUS if district judges -- the ones closest to the public, the ones who actually conduct trials, the ones most likely to cheat and act like scoundrels -- get away with churning out smelly orders that have nothing to do with the facts and law of a particular case.

Hopkins' order, dated Sept. 28, 2018, involves our status as in forma pauperis (IFP) litigants, which means we are entitled to proceed by paying a partial filing fee or no fee at all. Multiple courts already have found that we meet the standards for IFP status -- including the court in this very case, the "Jail Case."

But that's not enough to satisfy Hopkins. She claims our financial data with the court was filed roughly two years ago, and thus, is out of date. She fails to mention that the financial data is old because her colleague, R. David Proctor (the original judge in the case), ruled that we had IFP status, but we were not entitled to have the court issue summonses and conduct service on defendants -- despite clear federal statutes that hold to the contrary. That forced us to appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, which found Proctor was so wrong that even they had to reverse -- after letting the case sit for about a year.

Any staleness that has accumulated on the case is due to R. David Proctor, who is so corrupt that -- get this -- he recused from our "House Case" after admitting he had a conflict, but that only occurred to him after he had cheated us over and over, prompting us to file recusal motions, even though it is his duty to step down when he knows he has a conflict.

How can Brett Kavanaugh make this dumpster fire any worse?

Consider this from Hopkins' order (embedded at the end of this post), where she responds to our Notice of Appeal and Motion for Leave to Proceed on Appeal In Forma Pauperis (also embedded at the end of this post):

In their motion, the Plaintiffs note that "upon filing of an affidavit [the Plaintiffs] received approval from the district court to proceed IFP in the instant matter." [citations omitted]. The affidavit to which the Plaintiffs refer was filed in their initial Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, which was filed on March 26, 2016, at the time this case was initially filed. . . . The Order to which they refer only granted them partial IFP status. . . .  The Court also notes that another IFP motion to prosecute an appeal was filed on September 6, 2016. . . . Although that motion was denied by the previous judge assigned to this case . . . , the Eleventh Circuit ultimately granted the Plaintiffs leave to appeal IFP.

We learn three key points from this:

(1) Hopkins admits we already have been approved for IFP status in this very case, the "Jail Case."

(2) The Eleventh Circuit reversed Proctor on his "partial IFP" finding and his denial of our previous motion to proceed on appeal IFP;

(3) In short, Proctor's cheat job was so blatant that even the Eleventh Circuit couldn't stomach it -- and that is remarkable.

As for Hopkins, she and her buddy have been spanked on their respective asses for failing to follow the law -- and her answer to that is to continue violating the law. Consider this from her order:

The most recent of these two motions, and the affidavit associated therewith, contains information that is more than two years old, and therefore out of date. Accordingly, the Plaintiffs are DIRECTED to file a current affidavit, in the form attached to this Order, within 14 days. The failure to provide the affidavit will result in the motion being denied.

Is any of this in line with the law? Not one word of it. Did Hopkins bother to check the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP) before going off on a mild version of a Kavanaugh-like rant? Obviously, she did not.

If she had, she likely would have encountered Rule 24 on page 79 of FRAP as found at the Eleventh Circuit's Web site.  Under Item No. 3 ("Prior Approval"), the rule states in imminently clear language:

A party who was permitted to proceed in forma pauperis in the district-court action, or who was determined to be financially unable to obtain an adequate defense in a criminal case, may proceed on appeal in forma pauperis without further authorization, unless:

(A) the district court—before or after the notice of appeal is filed—certifies that the appeal is not taken in good faith or finds that the party is not otherwise entitled to proceed in forma pauperis and states in writing its reasons for the certification or finding; or

(B) a statute provides otherwise.

The law could not be more clear: A party who already has been permitted to proceed IFP in the district court -- and Hopkins admits we have been -- does not need further authorization to proceed IFP on appeal. The rule notes two possible exceptions, but Hopkins cites neither one in her order. The rule says nothing about a party being forced to file a new affidavit because trial-court incompetence has caused the data to be "out of date." 

Virginia Emerson Hopkins
We probably will file a new affidavit to placate Hopkins -- and because our financial numbers are worse now than they were two years ago. In other words, our qualifications for IFP status are even stronger now than they were before. So, we can file a new affidavit and let Hopkins shove it up her ass.

But the key point is this: We've caught Hopkins making up law, something she's done throughout our case -- and her bogus rulings always go against us. So Brett Kavanaugh's ascendance to SCOTUS is not going to introduce partial, unfair judges to the system; it's already choking on them.

Does that mean we should just shrug our shoulders and accept crooked judges? Heck, no. We probably will file a new affidavit just to see if that satiates Hopkins, but we also will file a Motion to Strike her order as unlawful.

Our court system is like a house that's being eaten by termites. You might not be able to see the damage yet, but it soon will collapse to its foundation. That requires the legal equivalent of the Orkin Man, to spray and kill the pests in the midst of their dirty work. We're talking about a real FBI investigation -- the kind that was not done in the Kavanaugh confirmation.

In the Northern District of Alabama alone, I can point to at least a half dozen judges (not counting the dead William M. Acker Jr.) who have repeatedly violated federal laws and should be in prison. I have little doubt that other districts around the country are also filled with scofflaws.

As it is, our tax dollars are being used to support a court system that is controlled by what amounts to organized crime. How long are we -- regardless of political ideology -- going to stand for that?