Friday, November 30, 2018

Donald Watkins might have his shortcomings, but as he faces charges (probably shaky) from crooked federal prosecutors, I'm pulling for him to beat the bastards

Donald Watkins
Birmingham attorney and businessman Donald Watkins has a habit of claiming the work of others as his own. On a related note, Watkins and his son, Donald V. Watkins Jr., were indicted yesterday on federal fraud charges in the Northern District of Alabama.

Does that first sentence lead to the second? Not necessarily, but it does suggest Donald Watkins Sr. has a sizable ego and perhaps that contributed to the legal problems he now faces.

On the other hand, the charges against Watkins grew from the Hugo Black Courthouse in downtown Birmingham. That building houses courtrooms, federal judges' offices, the clerk's office, and the office of U.S. attorney Jay Town. I've spent more time in the Hugo Black building than I care to remember, and while it is an attractive edifice, experience has taught me that it houses some of the sleaziest, most dishonest, and contemptible people on the planet. It's a sewer of organized crime, and my guess is that 70 percent of the people in the building have committed or know about indictable offenses.

My wife, Carol, and I have been involved in at least four or five (I've lost track) cases in the Hugo Black Courthouse, and every one has been decided by crooked federal judges, issuing rulings that run wildly contrary to black-letter law. Even in the clerk's office, we've seen signs that cases routinely are doled out to specific judges -- almost certainly for corrupt reasons -- rather than assigned randomly, as required by law.

The Hugo Black crooks are so low that it would not be beneath them to bring the Watkins charges as a diversion, to deflect public attention from legal concerns that hover over Alabama's ruling white elites -- such as the evolving North Birmingham Superfund scandal, the AG Steve Marshall/RAGA scandal, the firing of state prosecutor Matt Hart, the Bellefonte nuclear plant boondoggle, possible revelations about Jeff Sessions and other Alabama dirt bags in the Trump-Russia scandal, and more.

All of this means Donald Watkins and his son are about to enter a den of "reptiles, tramps, and thieves" -- to borrow a phrase modified from Cher -- and that's not a pleasant thought for anyone. In what promises to be a nasty, legal Battle Royale, I'm pulling for the Watkinses, hands down.

That's not to say I don't have quibbles with Mr. Watkins Sr. In recent years, he has added the role of "journalist" to his professional undertakings, and he has repeatedly claimed at his Facebook and Web page that he broke the story of former Gov. Robert Bentley and his extramarital affair with senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason. In fact, Watkins made the claim again yesterday in his online response to the federal indictments:

Ironically, while federal prosecutors in Alabama elected to prosecute me on flimsy allegations, they forgave former Governor Robert Bentley for his many acts of public corruption in spending vast sums of tax dollars, campaign money, and dark money romancing his lover, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. As the Alabama public knows, I am the journalist who broke the “sex for power” scandal between Bentley and Ms. Mason that resulted in the governor’s resignation.

The highlighted statement above is false, and Watkins knows it is false. I have advised him of its falsity several times via response on Facebook. This blog, Legal Schnauzer, broke the Bentley-Mason story on Aug. 31, 2015 -- and that is an indisputable fact, as we spelled out in an April 2018 post:

Legal Schnauzer broke the story of Bentley's affair with "adviser" Rebekah Caldwell Mason -- and its associated financial and legal implications -- roughly seven months before the mainstream media (MSM) began to take it seriously. The first story on the Bentley scandal, anywhere in any form of media, was published here at Legal Schnauzer on Aug. 31, 2015.

We were way ahead of everybody in naming Rebekah Mason as a central figure in the scandal. Our guess is the MSM never would have touched the story if we hadn't broken it and followed up with key details. In fact, (especially "reporters" John Archibald and Chuck Dean) spent months attacking my journalism on the story. They were more interested in sweeping the story under their GOP-tinted rug than actually pursuing it. . . .

Archibald, of course, was happy to go on The Rachel Maddow Show in spring 2017 and take credit for "breaking" the story, even though he was seven months late to the party.

Speaking of taking credit for the work of others, we have lawyer/businessman/Facebook "journalist" Donald Watkins, who repeatedly has taken credit for breaking the Bentley-Mason story. His most recent effort to falsely claim credit for breaking the story came three days ago. Much of Watkins' early reporting on the Bentley scandal focused on hints that the governor was having a homosexual affair with his security chief.

Watkins didn't even have the gender issue correct, and never mentioned Mason's name until well after we had broken it. Yet, just three days ago, he took credit for breaking the story. Perhaps that kind of fundamental dishonesty is the reason Watkins is up to his neck in federal investigations. (Given that many state and federal prosecutors are utterly lacking in integrity, it's also possible Watkins is being targeted because his skin is black and is seen as a threat to Alabama's conservative establishment.)

Am I displeased that Watkins has taken credit for my work? Yes. Am I so worked up about it that I've lost objectivity about his case? I hope not. Do my quibbles mean he is guilty of the charges feds now have brought against him? Of course not -- and I suspect the government's case is filled with holes.

Watkins did make important contributions on the Bentley/Mason story, and I have given him credit for that multiple times. He has broken or contributed to other important stories, such as the suicide of former University of Alabama student Megan Rondini. His journalism probably has earned him enemies in high places.

The government's efforts to charge Watkins have been percolating for years. It's a complex financial matter, and I'm still studying it to get a grip on the issues involved. But I've reached two conclusions already:

(1) I believe the charges likely were brought now to shine an ugly spotlight on a prominent black man in Alabama, diverting attention from possible criminal actions of white elites on issues noted above.

(2) Donald Watkins, without a doubt, is smarter than the prosecutors and investigators who will be trying to put him away. If he gets a reasonable judge and jury -- a big if -- I think he will kick the feds in the crotch if this thing goes to trial.

Based on what I know at the moment -- and what I've learned about the Alabama "justice system" over almost 20 years -- I hope Watkins does kick the feds in the delicates -- and may he keeps on kicking until they can squirm no more.


Anonymous said...

I've already got the popcorn popping for this one.

Anonymous said...

Will Donald Watkins be found guilty? No. Is he guilty? I don't know enough about it to say. Would I invest with Donald Watkins? No.

Anonymous said...

Is race a factor in this? The U.S. attorney's office is going after a black man (Watkins) while letting all kinds of white men (Strange, Sessions, Shelby, Waggoner) skate on the Superfund case.

I think the answer is real clear.

Anonymous said...

This is like a return to the "good old days" of Alice Martin, when it was open season on any Democratic public officials (especially black ones, plus Don Siegelman).

Anonymous said...

Never understood why Watkins wrote glowing posts about Jeff Sessions and Alice Martin, two of Alabama's all-time worst racists.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:22 --

I've wondered that same thing. Maybe Watkins thought Sessions and Martin could help him out of this legal jam that has been brewing for a while. If so, that apparently proved to be a bad bet.

legalschnauzer said...

Josh Moon of Alabama Political Reporter says Watkins never will be convicted:

legalschnauzer said...

Interesting stuff from Josh Moon about Watkins using Trump as part of his defense strategy:

Watkins’ case is more complicated than most. Essentially, he stands accused of taking investors’ money and using it for personal expenses. Watkins, of course, denies the allegations and says that his money was also tied up in the businesses and that many of the “personal expenses” were acceptable business expenses.

He also launched his first attack at the feds and U.S. Attorney Jay Towns. And that first salvo should give Towns and his crew an idea of what they’re up against.

Watkins, the man who has made his living as an attorney by using Alabama’s racist history to his advantage, posted a commentary to his website in which he made an ally out of … Donald Trump.

Using Trump’s allegations of bias and corruption within the U.S. Department of Justice, Watkins claimed his, too, was a political prosecution meant to silence a critic and a thorn in the side of the elite. The same man who represented HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy for a cool $5 million and who once claimed to be wealthy enough to buy a Major League Baseball franchise was on Thursday just another peon being chewed up by the corrupt machine.

Hey, this is a Trump state. And any jury pool will be filled with people from this state.

Anonymous said...

I read Watkins Facebook posts, and it seems he thinks Bentley set him up on this. I wouldn't be surprised if he's right.

Unknown said...

Anonymous, Bentley admitted in his deposition he had Watkins investigated. Pull up the court documents in the SEC civil case against Watkins. It will become clear this criminal case is trumped up BS and explains exactly why.

Anonymous said...

LS: This all reminds me, whatever happened with the Spencer Collier legal suit over wrongful termination?
On the Watkins case, the Feds have been been hassling him for years on these same bogus charges, and have failed. As he likes to point out to the numbskulls, the clients who supposedly have some kind of beef with him, ALL continue to be clients and investors with him. My money is on suppression of critics--with a little tinge of racism thrown in just because he's been way too loud about the Superfund scandal for far too long.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about the scoreboard on this. Do I have it straight?

(1) Legal Schnauzer breaks the story of the Bentley-Mason affair, and 8-9 days later, you are violently evicted from your home, and your wife's arm is broken.

(2) Watkins joins in on reporting about the affair, and other misconduct surrounding Bentley, and he's been hit with a federal investigation that ends in indictment.

Sounds to me like a Bentley-led war on bloggers.

legalschnauzer said...

@9:45 --

You have it straight. And for additional intrigue on our case, Carol's arm was broken by an individual we call "Mr. Blue Shirt," and we have reason to believe he was not a member of the Greene County Sheriff's Department. Who was he, and where was he from?

legalschnauzer said...

@9:04 --

Thanks for an insightful comment. My understanding is that the Collier lawsuit still is engaged in discovery, with a trial date set for March 2019.

legalschnauzer said...

@1:26 --

Good point. Bentley also admitted in the depo that he had me investigated. Very strong chance, in my view, that Bentley is behind these charges against Watkins:

Anonymous said...

"Luv Guv" Bentley and "Home Wrecky Becky" are going to find themselves at the bottom of the Black Warrior River if they don't watch it.

Anonymous said...

Good grief. Robert Bentley is a eunuch at this point. He is completely powerless. Stop with the claims that he can muster anything against you or anyone else. Watkins is charged because a lot of rich and powerful people (including Charles Barkley) gave him millions of dollars as investments and have nothing to show for it. I am not going to predict that he won’t beat these charges - he has pulled a rabbit out of the hat more than once. Personally, I hope he goes down. I think he is guilty.

legalschnauzer said...

@7:50 --

I disagree that Bentley is a eunuch or powerless. During his time as governor, I suspect he learned all kinds of dirt on powerful people. A corrupt government, like the one we have in Alabama, runs largely on extortion -- what people can get for themselves because of the dirt they have on others. That might be stronger than the dirt Bentley had while governor.

Bentley probably has dirt on everyone involved with the Superfund scandal, which got rolling while he was governor, and that includes Sessions, Strange, Shelby, Alabama Power, Balch Bingham, Drummond, and so on. Why do you think Bentley got off so easily for all of the crimes he committed? He had leverage, and he still has it.

Anonymous said...

Bentley got off because of a deal with Steve Marshall when he appointed him (and maybe a deal with Big Luther when he gave him the Senate seat). So you think Bentley has pull with Towns and the USDOJ? That Sessions is pulling the strings on this one?. That is laughable. Keep espousing your conspriacy theories. This one is a rabbit trail, wild goose chase, etc. You said nothing to refute that Watkins has cheated people out of large sums of money. How can you attack Barkley on this? Several “investors” who have committed large sums of money to Watkins’s businesses have testified in theSEC lawsuit and have nothing to show for their investments. Nothing. Watkins claims that these are viable businesses. He hasn’t proved anything in response to those who are now holding worthless stocks or investments. Put your considerable journalistic investigative skills to work to either exhonerate Watkins or admitting there is something to this, instead of just jumping on the bandwagon of the conspiracy blather.

legalschnauzer said...

It's not my job to exonerate Watkins. That will be up to him, and I suspect he can pull it off. More precisely, it will be up to the government to prove its case -- they have the burden of proof -- and I suspect they will fail.

People lose money on investments all the time, but it doesn't mean someone has committed a crime. In this instance, maybe there was a crime, maybe there wasn't. We'll just have to let it play out.

As for Bentley, why do you think he so easily could cut that deal? My guess is that he had dirt on powerful people, probably in his own party. That's a guess on my part, and we may or may not ever know the truth on that one. Bentley has admitted unlawfully targeting both Watkins and me, with taxpayer-funded resources, trying to get dirt on us. It's a matter of public record that Bentley has that kind of mindset. On the Superfund scandal alone, there is no telling how much dirt Bentley has on elites, and Town clearly is trying to protect certain folks.

If you don't agree, that's A-OK with me.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:10, You're a fool and that will become apparent here pretty shortly. Do some research into Nabirm or better yet post here again in a few years when they start selling those 500M barrels of oil and 500B carbane methane gas from the Walvis Basin off the coast of Africa. I've seen the geological reports. Have you?

Roger, Town is more than likely retaliating against Watkins in support of his fellow military buddy, the alleged killer of LaVena Johnson. If you haven't seen this, it's excellent:

legalschnauzer said...

@2:27 --

Thanks for sharing. If Town is bringing these charges in retaliation for Watkins' reporting on the LaVena Johnson case, then the USA is knowingly bringing false charges, and sounds like he is treading in criminal territory.