Thursday, March 28, 2019

Journalists Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald should hesitate to take victory laps based on William Barr's assessment of the Mueller report on Russia scandal


Matt Taibbi
Two prominent liberal journalists, who long have pooh-poohed the Trump-Russia scandal, are taking victory laps this week after Attorney General William Barr released a letter to Congress claiming the Robert Mueller report failed to establish grounds for conspiracy and obstruction-of-justice charges against those affiliated with the 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign.

Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone) and Glenn Greenwald (The Intercept) have produced mountains of top-flight journalism on national and international issues. So I've struggled to grasp why they have been averse to any notion that Russians meddled in the 2016 election -- and Trump officials might have helped them. It seems Taibbi and Greenwald have such a deep distrust of the U.S. intelligence community that they believe reporters inevitably were fed bogus information on the Russia story, much the way falsehoods drove the weapons-of-mass destruction (WMD) story during the lead up to the Iraq War under George W. Bush.

Perhaps most alarming is the level of vitriol and disdain Taibbi and Greenwald show toward journalists who might not share their views. One such journalist is Nancy LeTourneau, of Washington Monthly. In an article titled "Why Taibbi and Greenwald Shouldn't Feel Vindicated," LeTourneau suggests the duo's end-zone dances in the wake of Barr's letter are both unseemly and unwise.

That seems particularly true given that Taibbi and Greenwald, in the vernacular of TV talking heads, have "moved the goal posts" on the Russia story. Writes LeTourneau:

It is not surprising that Donald Trump and his enablers are doing a happy dance in response to Attorney General Barr’s letter summarizing the findings of the Mueller report. Barr has given the president what some have called “the best day of his presidency,” which is exactly what he was hired to do.

But there are at least two other people who’ve been busy patting themselves on the back over the last couple of days: Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald. Taibbi has written two articles taking a victory lap, while Greenwald has been busy with television appearances, including one with his buddy Tucker Carlson.

The reason these two are feeling so vindicated is because they’ve been skeptics of almost everything related to the Trump-Russia story from the beginning. Donald Trump isn’t the only person in the country who still hasn’t admitted that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election. As late as February 2018, after Mueller released his indictments against dozens of Russians for their social media campaigns, Greenwald was still in denial. Here’s what Taibbi wrote about that this week:

"I didn’t really address the case that Russia hacked the DNC, content to stipulate it for now. I was told early on that this piece of the story seemed “solid,” but even that assertion has remained un-bolstered since then, still based on an 'assessment' by those same intelligence services that always had issues…The government didn’t even examine the DNC’s server, the kind of detail that used to make reporters nervous."

No rational person, at this point, can deny that Vladimir Putin and Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Even William Barr admits that. Consider these words from his letter to Congress:

The Special Counsel's report is divided into two parts. The first describes the results of the Special Counsel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts.

Barr's words confirm there was a story of momentous importance there all along. So why do Taibbi and Greenwald seemingly shrug their shoulders and say, in essence, "There never was anything worth investigating"? Here is LeTourneau's take:

There are those who would suggest that Taibbi buying Trump’s line about the government not examining the DNC’s server suggests that he is unqualified to comment on this issue at all. But the main message from both he and Greenwald is that we can’t trust what U.S. intelligence services tell us, so we must see all of the evidence related to Trump and Russia with our own eyes.

Of course, the fact that something is awry has been obvious to anyone who has been watching Trump in action over these last three years. But what is most astounding to me is that both of these guys have gone all-in on feeling vindicated about their skepticism based on a four-page letter from the attorney general. Neither of them is holding back judgement until we get the chance to see the results of Mueller’s investigation with our own eyes. Where did all that skepticism go?

Indeed. Why would two guys who don't trust intelligence officials buy every word coming from William Barr, long known as a fixer for the Republican Party? Both Taibbi and Greenwald have described themselves as dogged, lawyer-like investigators. So, LeTourneau wonders, understandably, what happened to that approach:

And yet, all of the sudden Greenwald and Taibbi believe that what Attorney General Barr has written about the Mueller report represents the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. One can only assume that being on team DOJ is just fine.

It is human nature to be more attuned to information that reinforces your view of the world. So it probably shouldn’t surprise us that Greenwald and Taibbi have jumped on Barr’s bandwagon. But they are the ones who have been holding themselves above the rest of us as journalists who question those in power and demand evidence.

In terms of "moving the goal posts," let's consider Taibbi's original approach to the Russia story, from a Legal Schnauzer post in January 2017:

Taibbi seems nonplussed that the whole thing hasn't been wrapped up with a colorful bow by now. And oh, there is that Iraq-WMD thing:

"The problem with this story is that, like the Iraq-WMD mess, it takes place in the middle of a highly politicized environment during which the motives of all the relevant actors are suspect. Nothing quite adds up.

"If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now."

Taibbi's analysis began with doubts that Russia interfered with the U.S. election. Now that such interference has been proven -- even to William Barr's satisfaction -- Taibbi has switched gears to: "Well, it's just silly to think Trump officials worked in cahoots with Russians."

Greenwald's tone has changed, too. Here is how he explained his position in an April 2018 interview with Jacobin Radio's The Dig program:

What I have said from the very beginning was exactly the same as what I say now, which is that of course it’s possible, and even plausible, that Russia engaged in disinformation campaigns or hacked with the intention of undermining or destabilizing the US, because this is something that the Russians and the US have done to one another and to everybody else for many decades. Nobody would ever say, “Oh, this isn’t something that Vladimir Putin would do, he’s too ethical, he’s too cautious.” This is minor in the scope of what the Russians and the Americans do to one another, and have long done to one another.
Glenn Greenwald
Nobody rational would ever say “Oh, I don’t believe this happened.” My argument has been very simple and consistent, which is the lesson that I thought we learned from Iraq is that we shouldn’t accept inflammatory claims from the US government unless accompanied by convincing evidence that those claims are true. We shouldn’t accept them on faith, especially when they’re being laundered anonymously through media outlets, but even when they’re being issued in terms of government reports in the name of the Department of Homeland Security, that doesn’t have evidence to let us determine whether or not the claims are true. We ought to have high levels of skepticism about the truth of those claims unless evidence is available for us to look at that convinces us that those claims are true. And we just haven’t had that evidence when it comes to the core claim that Vladimir Putin ordered Russian government agents to hack the email inboxes of the DNC and John Podesta. Maybe the Mueller investigation will one day reveal that’s true, maybe it will one day reveal that Donald Trump worked with the Russians to make that happen, but thus far there’s very little evidence to no evidence that those things are true. Therefore I’m saying, and I’ve always said, not that it didn’t happen, but that we shouldn’t accept the view that we did.

So, Greenwald has admitted all along the claims of Russian interference could be true? And we know now they were true. How does that square with his tone in a joint interview this week with journalist David Cay Johnston on Democracy Now!, with host Amy Goodman?

Greenwald called the Trump-Russia story "a scam and fraud from the beginning." He uses words like "moronic," "joke," and "fairy tale" to describe reporting on the matter -- all on a story he admitted at the outset could be true. That's not the only sign of Greenwald being disingenuous. Writes LeTourneau:

Greenwald claims to know what Mueller found during his investigation. But the truth is, all he knows is what Barr wrote about it, which included one quote from Mueller related to this point: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Greenwald is a lawyer, so he should know that the specific words another lawyer uses in a situation like this matter a lot. Rather than saying they “found no evidence” for collusion or coordination, Mueller wrote that he “did not establish” that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russians. In other words, they might have found evidence, but not enough to prove it in a court of law. That is precisely why we need to see Mueller’s entire report in order to know what kind of evidence he did or did not find.

Taibbi and Greenwald have taken stances on the Russia story that are so peculiar some have suggested they are Russian agents. LeTourneau refuses to go that far, but she makes clear the story has not represented their finest hours:

I agree with Greenwald and Taibbi that accusing them of being Russian agents smacks of McCarthyism. So I reject that notion wholeheartedly. But in their quest to highlight the failings of U.S. policy, they too often fail to acknowledge the shortcomings of any country that presents itself as an adversary. That is especially true of Russia. It blinds them not only to the possibility that the current president might be compromised, but to the fact that, as Franklin Foer wrote, “Russian-Style Kleptocracy Is Infiltrating America.” That is a failing for anyone who claims to be a liberal.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

William Barr's use of "weasel words" and citations to incorrect legal standards give ample grounds for the public to question his motivations re: Mueller probe


Robert Mueller

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in his letter to Congress about the Robert Mueller report, cites an incorrect standard for bringing a federal obstruction-of-justice charge. On so-called collusion, Barr claims Mueller "did not establish" grounds to support such a charge, even though the public already knows of at least three instances where members of the Trump campaign apparently acted in coordination with Russian officials.

Is Barr's four-page letter to be taken seriously? Did Barr write it in good faith? Our answer to both questions is no, and we are not alone in that assessment. A writer at Salon referred to Barr's analysis of the Mueller report as "fake." A writer at Truthout called Barr's letter "meaningless," part of a "disinformation campaign." A writer at The New Republic said the Trump campaign committed crimes, and Barr is "helping . . . cover it up." A writer at Vanity Fair said Barr essentially "pardoned" Trump. A writer at Slate referred to Barr's use of "weasel words" to help protect Trump.

The citizenry appears to distrust Barr's handiwork -- with good reason. Consider Barr's explanation of how he and deputy AG Rod Rosenstein concluded that Mueller's report did not provide sufficient evidence to bring obstruction charges:

Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. In cataloguing the President's actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department's principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense.

Notice that Barr twice claims the government would have to prove obstruction "beyond a reasonable doubt" to obtain a conviction at trial. That, of course, is true, but he AG is jumping ahead of the game. The reasonable-doubt standard is for a jury or judge to decide, Barr's letter, however, is about the Mueller INVESTIGATION -- which had the central purpose of determining whether to bring charges or not.

The standard for such a determination is "probable cause," not reasonable doubt. Probable cause has been defined as the presence of "particular facts and circumstances [that are] sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that a suspect has committed an offense."

Jed Shugerman, of Slate, noted Barr's peculiar citation to the reasonable-doubt standard:

An indictment requires probable cause, but Barr, and presumably Rosenstein, held the evidence to a higher standard. It is wise for a prosecutor to bring charges not for the barest margin of evidence over the threshold, but to think about the prudence of a trial. Barr and Rosenstein are surely wise to take that trial standard into account in determining whether an indictment might be warranted. But if Barr held himself to that high evidentiary standard to justify his decision not to bring charges, surely it is also relevant to ask whether Mueller’s team also held itself to that same rigorous “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard both on questions of obstruction and conspiracy.

It matters if Mueller had sufficient evidence for probable cause on either of these questions but decided it was insufficient evidence for a prudent indictment with an eye toward a trial and a realistic conviction. Probable cause is relevant for Congress and for the public.

I would take it one step further than Shugerman did: Barr not only held the evidence to a higher standard, he held it to an unlawful standard. Probable cause is relevant for Congress and the public in the Trump-Russia matter, as it is relevant in all criminal matters.

Consider the most high-profile criminal case in Alabama over the past few years -- the federal fraud trial of Birmingham attorney and businessman Donald Watkins, who happens to be black. Charges were brought against Watkins based on probable cause; if prosecutors were forced to indict Watkins only on a reasonable-doubt standard, he almost certainly would not have been charged. In fact, hardly anyone would be charged with a crime under such a standard.

With the Watkins matter in mind, and given that Trump's inner circle consists mostly of white people, Barr appears to have created a double standard based on skin color -- a form of white privilege, if you will.

Consider these words from Slate's William Saletan about Barr's use of the reasonable-doubt standard:

The attorney general says prosecutors would have to prove “each” of these elements of the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Even if some of Trump’s acts are both obstructive and corrupt, Barr won’t bring charges unless the “nexus to a … proceeding” can also be proved by the highest legal standard. In a case like this one, that’s an almost impossible threshold for prosecution.

A sage legal observer once noted that a grand jury could find probable cause to "indict a ham sandwich." That illustrates the bar for bringing criminal charges, against most citizens (including Donald Watkins), is relatively low. But for the Trump crowd, Barr has established an "almost impossible threshold." Is that a back-hand slap at any notion of "equal protection under the law"?

William Barr
As for so-called collusion, what about the apparent examples of such misconduct that Barr seems determined to ignore? From Jed Shugerman, of Slate:

First, the top-line item that Trump and his allies have taken as total exoneration: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

This conclusion is a good one for the president’s defenders. But it doesn’t address any of the evidence of improper relations between Trump surrogates and Russia that we already know about or explain how Mueller viewed these connections within his framework for finding “no collusion.” What about the actions of informal adviser Roger Stone, who allegedly contacted WikiLeaks to seek information for the Trump campaign? The Mueller team’s indictment of Stone alleges, “After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by [WikiLeaks], a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact [Stone] about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign.” Who directed the senior official?

What about Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik? Mueller’s team had already concluded that Manafort lied to investigators about offering detailed polling information to Kilimnik, whom Mueller has identified as having “ties to a Russian intelligence service.” The Mueller team’s own court filings seem to contradict Barr’s letter. What did Mueller’s own summary ultimately determine about these contacts, which are very relevant to Congress’ counter-intelligence mandate? Such contacts do not have to be direct to count as conspiracy or even non-criminal coordination.

And that does not include perhaps the most blatant example of apparent coordination. Writes William Saletan:

We know, for example, that in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. was told in an email that “the Crown prosecutor of Russia” had “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] … and would be very useful to your father.” The email said the offer was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. wrote back: “If it’s what you say I love it.” Apparently, by the standards asserted in the letter, this doesn’t count as even “tacit agreement … on election interference.”

Mueller could not find probable cause of conspiracy in the Trump Tower meeting that included Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-connected lawyer? If Mueller is that inept, how did he ever become director of the FBI?

Regarding the Trump Tower meeting, consider this exchange at Vox during Sean Illing's  Q and A with former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti:

Sean Illing
Mueller’s decision against collusion is surprising to many people who’ve spent the last two years watching all these stories emerge and seeing various people in Trump’s orbit be charged with crimes. What’s the bar for proving conspiracy or coordination?

Renato Mariotti
I can speak to conspiracy, because I’ve tried a lot of these cases. There you have to prove that someone knowingly entered into an agreement to commit a crime, and that’s very hard to do, especially when there isn’t direct evidence that they did so.

In this case, we certainly know there was a conspiracy among Russian operatives to influence the 2016 election, but the question was always, did any Americans actively and knowingly participate in that conspiracy?

Sean Illing
Well, this is what’s so confusing. We have evidence that the president’s son arranged a meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower to discuss damaging information about Hillary Clinton that the Russians stole. If that’s not collusion or conspiracy, what the hell is?

Renato Mariotti
It’s a great question. In the emails we have from Donald Trump Jr. about that meeting, it appears that, first of all, he’s expressing his eagerness to receive help from the Russian government. But it’s not clear, however, that he met with someone, and formed an agreement with her, to make that happen.

In other words, he didn’t have an agreement to do anything concrete with her and did not take a substantial step towards joining that conspiracy or aiding their effort in some way. Based on the public record, that’s what we know. Maybe there’s more that we don’t know. But given what we do know, that doesn’t quite meet the threshold for establishing a conspiracy, even though it’s obviously deeply suspicious.

Mariotti acknowledges that Illing has raised a great question -- perhaps the best question we've seen raised so far regarding Barr's letter. In fact, the question is so good that Mariotti can't come up with much of an answer. Perhaps that's because Mariotti already had said this in the interview:

So Barr’s decision raises more questions than it answers. And given the weight of the decision he was making, that causes me to question his motivations.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Alabama blogger Rickey Stokes calls Claud Neilson a "government-paycheck suckin' judge" for failing to cite law that allowed him to order my "arrest for blogging"


Claud Neilson
How did Alabama blogger Rickey Stokes react when he asked Judge Claud Neilson to cite the law that allowed him to order my "arrest for blogging" in October 2013 -- only to have Neilson provide an evasive, horse-manure answer? Stokes called Neilson a "government-paycheck suckin' judge."

I like Rickey Stokes. He's got the cajones to call a state judge and ask him to explain his crooked rulings in a matter that involves profoundly important First Amendment issues; no other journalist that I'm aware of confronted Neilson directly about my unlawful five-month incarceration that lasted until March 2014 . And Stokes is smart enough not to fall for it when the judge resorts to bobbing and weaving for an answer.

Stokes came up a tad short in a couple of areas on his post about questioning Neilson. First, I wish Stokes had confronted Neilson with Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931), a U.S. Supreme Court opinion hat is roughly 88 years old and holds that the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction Neilson issued to justify my arrest are unlawful "prior restraints" -- and have been under First Amendment law that dates back more than 200 years.

Second, Stokes ends his post with a scenario that shows he does not realize the case leading to my incarceration -- Rob Riley and Liberty Duke v. Roger and Carol Shuler -- was handled in a much more crooked fashion than even the appropriately cynical Stokes can fathom. In short, I consider Stokes' missteps to be minor. The important thing is that Stokes confronted Claud Nielson -- something no mainstream media (MSM) reporter in Alabama was willing to do -- and held him up for the lawless, crooked weasel that he is. Rickey Stokes, who is a bail bondsmen by trade, when he isn't writing Rickey Stokes News, will have my eternal respect and gratitude for doing that.

What exactly did Stokes do? Well, let's let him explain it, straight from his March 24, 2014, post, titled "Since October 23 in Shelby County Jail Because He Will Not Remove Article":


JUDGE CLAUDE NEILSON - RETIRED JUDGE DEMOPOLIS, ALABAMA

The Judge is Claude Neilson of Demopolis Alabama. He is retired and specially appointed in this case.

Today I called Judge Neilson and he answered the phone. I asked him how could he hold Shuler in jail on "civil' contempt"? Judge Neilson responded that Shuler held the keys to the jail. That when he removed the articles from The Legal Schnauzer he could be released from jail.

WHAT!!!

You mean this government paycheck suckin' Judge who is retired and probably drawing a six figure salary still from the people is keeping a man in the Shelby County Jail because he will not remove something from the web?

Let's point out two key issues here?

(1) Stokes' question, in so many words, was, "What law allows you to hold Shuler in jail for "civil contempt"? Neilson responds by saying "Shuler holds the keys to the jail." That's the same pablum, word for word, Neilson spewed during the one hearing I had before him, on Nov. 14, 2013. Stokes' question essentially asks, "What law gives you the authority to throw a journalist in jail over reporting that has not -- as a matter of law -- been found defamatory? (Note: Even if the material of which Riley and Duke complaint had lawfully been found defamatory -- by a jury, as required under defamation law -- the remedy would have been money damages, not incarceration.) Neilson twists Stokes' words and puts the burden on me for being in jail -- all while failing to answer the question of why I was in jail in the first place. Neilson, of course, can't answer that question because there is no law that allows him to issue a "prior restraint" and then hold me in contempt for "violating" a ruling he can't lawfully issue.

(2) Stokes paraphrases Neilson as saying that when I removed the articles from Legal Schnauzer, I could be released from jail." Again, that is the same pablum Neilson spewed in the Nov. 14, 2013,  hearing. And again, it doesn't answer the question, which essentially was: How can a journalist be forced to take down a story that, as a matter of law, has not been found to be defamatory? Neilson danced around that issue because there was no answer he could give.

This, of course, involves a practical question that I asked Neilson myself. "Even if I were willing to take down the offending articles, how am I supposed to do it from jail?" Neilson's response: "That's your problem." That shows Neilson is not only a crook, who has no respect for the rule of law, he's also a jackass, who is blind to basic human courtesy and fairness. Calling Claud Neilson a reptile would be an insult to reptiles across the globe.

Stokes picked up on this issue in his post:

First, in the Houston County Jail in Dothan, Sheriff Hughes does not let the inmates have computers. So how in the world can this man remove something from the web? Oh, they did not teach this government paycheck sucking retired Judge that in law school or how to screw people judge school!!!

As for Stokes' second minor misstep, noted in the fourth paragraph above, let's look at the issue he raises near the end of his post:

I do not know Roger Shuler. I do not agree with some of his writings. And my investigation, some of what he wrote, well I hope he has had proof. 
(Note: Here is a technical issue the public often gets wrong in a civil case such as Riley, et al v. Shuler, et al. As defendants, Carol and I didn't have to prove anything. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff. They had to prove my reporting was false and defamatory. If they can't do that -- and they did not even come close in this case -- it's party over and case closed -- game, set, match.)

And he was stupid with this lawsuit. Give me the authority to take depositions under oath. MAN - please - please give me that. Especially Rob Riley, Bob Riley, Luther Strange!!! WOW - PLEASE PLEASE - my heart races at the opportunity.

Shuler should have agreed and took the opportunity to get them under oath to answer questions.

Oh well...

Shuler remains in the Shelby County Jail or Jefferson County Jail for Civil Contempt of Court. All for the former Alabama Governor's son--Rob Riley.

As for Stokes' claim that I "was stupid with this lawsuit," he's probably assuming this was a somewhat regular lawsuit, which would follow normal procedures. But there was nothing normal about it. The lawful remedy in a defamation case is money damages, to be determined by a jury. But Riley-Duke did not seek money damages or a jury trial. As for depositions and other forms of discovery, those are precursors to a trial -- and their first function is to help determine, at summary judgment, if there should be a trial at all. But Riley-Duke did not seek a trial or discovery; they wanted Neilson to act as a one-man censor, which is exactly what he did, even though long-standing defamation law forbids it.

If Riley and Duke weren't going to conduct discovery -- and they did not even ask for any -- was there any way I was going to be allowed to conduct discovery? Of course not. In fact, the record offers proof of that. Consider the notice we received on a preliminary-injunction hearing. First, it came via an unlawful traffic stop by Shelby County deputy Mike DeHart and did not even include a summons, calling us to court. Is it any surprise that we didn't appear? Also, we received less than 24 hours notice of the hearing, and the Alabama Supreme Court has held that such sloppy actions by a plaintiff are unlawful, as we explained in an Oct. 10, 2013 post:

Alabama Republican Rob Riley has filed documents that seek to have me held in contempt of court for violating a preliminary injunction related to certain posts at this blog.

Under Alabama law, however, no preliminary injunction exists because we were not given proper notice of a hearing on the matter. In fact, Riley's own court documents prove that no lawful injunction exists. How do we know? It's spelled out in an Alabama Supreme Court case styled Southern Homes, AL v. Bermuda Lakes, LLC, 57 So. 3d 100 (Ala., 2010).

As you can see, the ruling was issued in 2010, so it's not ancient law. A Yale Law School graduate like Rob Riley should be able to find it. But apparently that kind of research is beyond Mr. Riley's legal skills--and those of retired Circuit Judge Claud Neilson, who issued the injunction.

What issues were at hand in Southern Homes? We addressed that in the Oct. 10, 2013 post, which came less than two weeks before my arrest. In other words, we knew any attempt to arrest us was unlawful well before it happened. That's because there never was a lawful preliminary injunction:

The Southern Homes case involved a preliminary injunction that a circuit judge issued related to the development of 87 acres in Madison County, near Huntsville. The order enjoined Southern Homes from taking any action related to its dispute with Bermuda. But the Alabama Supreme Court found the preliminary injunction was unlawful because Southern Homes did not receive sufficient notice of a hearing, pursuant to Rule 65 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP). From the opinion:

Southern Homes argues, among other things, that it received insufficient notice under Rule 65(a)(1), Ala. R. Civ. P., of the hearing on Bermuda's motion for a preliminary injunction, in violation of Southern Homes' due-process rights. We agree. Rule 65(a)(1), Ala. R. Civ. P., provides that "[n]o preliminary injunction shall be issued without notice to the adverse party." Rule 65(a)(1) does not specify how much notice must be given to the adverse party before a preliminary injunction can be issued. However, as the United States Supreme Court has held in interpreting the federal equivalent of Rule 65(a),2 the notice required by Rule 65(a) "implies a hearing in which the defendant is given a fair opportunity to oppose the application and to prepare for such opposition." Granny Goose Foods, Inc. v. Brotherhood of Teamsters & Auto Truck Drivers Local No. 70 of Alameda County, 415 U.S. 423, 434 n. 7, 94 S.Ct. 1113, 39 L.Ed.2d 435 (1974). See also Alabama Republican Party v. McGinley, 893 So.2d 337, 344 (Ala.2004) (holding that "[t]he hallmarks of procedural due process are notice and `the opportunity to be heard "at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner."'

Bottom line: We were required to receive sufficient notice of the preliminary-injunction hearing to allow  "a fair opportunity to oppose the application and to prepare for such opposition (calling witnesses, gathering evidence, etc.)" Instead, we got less than 24 hours notice, violating Alabama law and meaning there was no lawful preliminary injunction for me to violate. In other words, Riley v. Shuler was crazier and more crooked than Ricky Stokes could even imagine.

In a perfect world, Rickey Stokes might have gone a little deeper in his analysis and hit Claud Neilson with even more questions the judge couldn't answer. But that's a quibble. Mr. Stokes did unmask Neilson as a criminal and a fraud, and that is a major public service.

Monday, March 25, 2019

William Barr's summary of Robert Mueller's report on Trump-Russia scandal suggests the AG's reputation as a fixer for the Republican Party is richly deserved


William Barr
A key member of Congress yesterday called Attorney General William Barr's summary of the Robert Muller report "a lie" and wondered if Barr pressured the special counsel not to reach a conclusion on possible obstruction of justice charges against members of the Donald Trump administration. Meanwhile, an expert on authoritarian rule suggested Saturday -- the day before Barr released his summary -- the AG is so partisan that he could not be trusted to deliver an accurate appraisal of Mueller's work.

Amid a deluge of analysis after release yesterday of Barr's letter to Congress, the statement from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) -- plus insights the day before from St. Louis-based journalist and author Sarah Kendzior -- stand as perhaps the words Americans should most remember from a weekend of political intrigue.

Meanwhile, a veteran journalist and a prominent conservative commentator posed perhaps the most compelling questions of the past two days.

Nadler's take came in a Raw Story report titled "I wonder if Barr pressured special counsel." From the article:

When answering questions, Nadler repeated that Barr “auditioned” for his position as attorney general by writing a report on his “extreme view of obstruction of justice in presidential power.”

“Given the fact that the special counsel found ample evidence of obstruction so as not to be able to say they’re not guilty of obstruction, so he said, we’re not exonerating the president, after 22 months for the attorney general reviewing that record in 22 hours is a bit much. I would, in fact, wonder if the attorney general pressured the special counsel into not making that finding so he could make the finding. I’m not aware of any case where an attorney general made the decision on a prosecution or non-prosecution for obstruction of justice.”

Nadler clearly was not impressed with Barr's handiwork:

“Earlier today, I received a four-page letter from Attorney General Barr outlining his summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report while making a few questionable legal arguments of his own,” Nadler said. “I take from this letter three points: First, President Trump is wrong. This report does not amount to a so-called total exoneration. Special counsel Mueller was cleared that his report ‘does not exonerate,’ the president. . . .
"Second, given these questions, it is imperative that the attorney general release the full report and that the underlying evidence,” Nadler continued. “The entire unfiltered report, as well as the evidence underlying that report, must be made available to Congress and to the American people. . . . ”

“Third, the attorney general’s comments make it clear that Congress must step in to get the truth and provide full transparency to the American the president has not been exonerated by the special counsel, yet the attorney general has not decided to go further or to share the findings with the public,” Nadler said. “We can’t rely on what may be a hasty partisan interpretation of the facts.”

Kendzior, author of The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America, suggests Barr is so ethically compromised that he likely did not need to pressure Mueller. From Raw Story, via an interview with Joy Reid at MSNBC:

“We know Trump demands loyalty oaths from the people who work for him,” MSNBC anchor Joy Reid noted. “For all we know, William Barr is operating under an oath to the president.”

“The challenge I’m having is having confidence that whatever his report — it’s not the Mueller report, it’s the Barr report — and now we’re supposed to trust whatever he writes is true?”

“Yeah, I don’t think you should trust it,” authoritarianism expert Sarah Kendzior replied.

Sarah Kendzior
“I don’t think we should have blind trust in anything, I don’t think we should have blanket distrust in anything, but we should know Trump appoints people who are going to be loyal — that is the foremost quality he looks for in officials,” she explained.

“And the loyalty is not to the United States, it’s not to the Constitution, it is not to the American people — it is purely to Trump, his money, his family, his personal interest and that is why Barr was selected,” she continued.

Kendzior did not stop there. She said, in so many words, that Barr is an untrustworthy political hack:

“Barr is also a GOP loyalist. The GOP is equally invested in covering up these crimes because the broad scope of the Mueller implicates them,” Kendzior noted. “You may remember that Michael Cohen was the RNC deputy finance chair.”

“So they need somebody who has a record of, you know, exonerating the GOP — which Barr does,” she reminded. “He exonerated people in Iran-contra — some of whom are now appearing again in the Trump administration.”

“So Barr is ideal — unfortunately — for this role,” Kendzior concluded.

As for profound questions raised over the weekend, one came from Elizabeth Drew, long-time Washington journalist and author. Drew cut right to the chase in this item from her Twitter account:

If none of Trump's aides conspired with Russians why was [Paul] Manafort sharing detailed polling data with a Kremlin agent?

Exactly.

David Frum, a conservative commentator and former George W. Bush speechwriter, takes a similar approach, in an article at The Atlantic titled "The Question the Mueller Report Has Not Answered: Why?" Writes Frum:

Good news, America. Russia helped install your president. But although he owes his job in large part to that help, the president did not conspire or collude with his helpers. He was the beneficiary of a foreign intelligence operation, but not an active participant in that operation. He received the stolen goods, but he did not conspire with the thieves in advance.

This is what Donald Trump’s administration and its enablers in Congress and the media are already calling exoneration. But it offers no reassurance to Americans who cherish the independence and integrity of their political process.

The question unanswered by the attorney general’s summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is: Why? Russian President Vladimir Putin took an extreme risk by interfering in the 2016 election as he did. Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency—the most likely outcome—Russia would have been exposed to fierce retaliation by a powerful adversary. The prize of a Trump presidency must have glittered alluringly, indeed, to Putin and his associates. Why?

As for specific questions, Frum has those, too:

Did they admire Trump’s anti-NATO, anti–European Union, anti-ally, pro–Bashar al-Assad, pro-Putin ideology?

Were they attracted by his contempt for the rule of law and dislike of democracy?

Did they hold compromising information about him, financial or otherwise?

Were there business dealings in the past, present, or future?

Or were they simply attracted by Trump’s general ignorance and incompetence, seeing him as a kind of wrecking ball to be smashed into the U.S. government and U.S. foreign policy?

Many public-spirited people have counted on Mueller to investigate these questions, too, along with the narrowly criminal questions in his assignment. Perhaps he did, perhaps he did not; we will know soon, either way. But those questions have always been the important topics.

Is it too early to label the Mueller report a "whitewash"? Probably. Is it too early to wonder if William Barr is engaging in a cover-up? Probably not -- and that's because key sections of his summary make no sense, when examined in light of what we already knew.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Alabama judge Claud Neilson could not come up with an answer when Dothan blogger Rickey Stokes asked what law allowed him to order my arrest for blogging


Claud Neilson
The Alabama judge who ordered my unlawful arrest in October 2013 received a phone call several months later in which he was asked -- in so many words -- "What law gave you the authority to essentially throw someone in jail for blogging?" In what should be a surprise to no one, Judge Claud Neilson could not answer the question.

The caller was Dothan-based blogger Rickey Stokes, publisher of Rickey Stokes News (RSN). I check in on Stokes' site periodically and have written several posts about it over the years. (See here and here.) But his post about the phone call to Claud Neilson escaped my attention -- perhaps because it was published on March 24, 2014, and I still was incarcerated then, with my release coming two days later, on March 26.

One of the ironies of my five-month stay in jail is that it's been almost five years since my release, and I'm still discovering reporting on it for the first time. I was doing a Google search on something the other day and up popped the Stokes-Neilson story. My reaction? "Alleluia, someone actually had the balls to confront Neilson about his actions in my case -- and I didn't even know about it."

(Note: I recently discovered the story of my incarceration prompted coverage and commentary in Russia.)

To my knowledge, Stokes is the only reporter -- non-traditional or otherwise -- who thought to interview Neilson about his decision to incarcerate a journalist, contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law.

I'm aware of only one other journalist who interviewed a central con artist in my story of incarceration. That was Sara Rafsky, of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), who questioned Alabama lawyer and GOP slime bag Rob Riley about the defamation lawsuit in which he and co-plaintiff Liberty Duke sought my arrest. When pressed, Riley lied his ass off, claiming there was law to support the actions he and Duke had taken. Riley, of course, could not cite any such law because none exists

Stokes' post is titled "Since October 23 in Shelby County Jail Because He Will Not Remove Article," and here is how he sets the scene:

Is the Judge lawful and correct, or is he abusing the very Constitution he was sworn to uphold?

A "civil' lawsuit has had a Shelby County man in the Shelby County jail since October 23, 2013. The lawsuit filed by FORMER ALABAMA GOVERNOR/NOW LOBBYIST BOB RILEY'S SON Rob Riley ( Attorney ) against Roger Shuler of Shelby County.

Shuler operated The Legal Schnauzer web site. Shuler wrote articles against Riley and Attorney General Luther Strange and made accusations they were having extra marital affairs. Riley and the female who was alleged to be seeing Strange filed civil lawsuits against Shuler.

Shuler was arrested on October 23, 2013 by Shelby County Sheriff Deputies. Shuler was arrested for Resisting Arrest and two counts of contempt of court. Shuler had a $ 1,000 bond on the Resisting Arrest and two no bonds on the "civil' contempt of court.

CALL TO SHELBY COUNTY JAIL

Today I called the Shelby County Jail. The person who answered said Shuler has two no bonds. My question was how long could Shuler be held on civil contempt. The person said " hold as long as the Judge wants to."

The "Judge," of course, was Claud Neilson, and Stokes was not afraid to call and put him on the spot. Stokes misspelled my name several times in the post, and I cleaned that up in the excerpt above. But, by God, Rickey Stokes proves he is a bulldog of a reporter, and he's got a "pair" -- which is more than can be said for most mainstream media (MSM) types in Alabama.

Stokes shows that he's tough enough to put a hard question to a state judge, and he's smart enough not to fall for the judge's shameless answer. In fact, Stokes is not afraid to use some colorful language to describe Neilson's action -- and believe you me, I appreciate it.


(To be continued)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Matt Osborne claims Dry Alabama scam was lawful, but Robert Mueller's actions suggest it might have involved a conspiracy to defraud the United States


Matt Osborne
The activist at the heart of a false-flag operation that might have determined the outcome of Alabama's 2017 special U.S. Senate election has claimed he and others involved acted within the law. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's actions in the Trump-Russia investigation, however, suggest Matt Osborne might be wrong about that.

It's too early to say if Osborne, from Florence, AL, will face criminal charges -- perhaps along with others. But it's possible the deceptive Dry Alabama scheme was the deciding factor in U.S. Sen. Doug Jones' (D-AL) upset victory over Republican Roy Moore. If it's proven that Doug Jones (D-AL) knew about the Dry Alabama scheme, that would suggest he obtained a U.S. Senate seat by fraud -- and it could become one of the biggest political stories of the year.

Both Jones and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall have called on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate, and there has been no news on that front for almost 10 weeks. Jones also has called for an investigation that goes beyond Congress, perhaps to the Department of Justice. At this point, our research indicates Osborne and Co. probably received poor legal advice -- causing them to engage in an ill-conceived scam that might cost them dearly.

How does Mueller enter the picture? In July 2018, he indicted 11 Russians on charges of meddling with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Many of the charges were brought under 18 U.S.C 371, Conspiracy to Defraud the United States (also known as "Conspiracy to Commit An Offense Against the United States."). From the Mueller indictment:

COUNT ONE

(Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States)

1. In or around 2016, the Russian Federation (“Russia”) operated a military intelligence agency called the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (“GRU”). The GRU had multiple units, including Units 26165 and 74455, engaged in cyber operations that involved the staged releases of documents stolen through computer intrusions. These units conducted largescale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The indictment lays out the case, with 78 paragraphs of factual allegations, concluding on page 27 with this:

All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.

Are the factual allegations identical to what apparently happened in the Dry Alabama scheme? Of course not, but they don't have to be, under the broad language of Sec. 371. Here is how it reads:

If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor.

Note the words "for any purpose." Language does not get much broader than that. And the gist of the Mueller indictment is that two or more persons in Russia conspired to interfere with a U.S. federal election -- the 2016 presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Doug Jones
That appears to be in line with what happened in the Dry Alabama scheme, which included Matt Osborne, D.C.-based social-media consultant Beth Becker, and likely others who reportedly concocted the scheme at a Netroots Nation conference.

In a 1924 case styled Hammerschmidt v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed issues related to defrauding the United States:

To conspire to defraud the United States means primarily to cheat the Government out of property or money, but it also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.

That passage probably explains Robert Mueller's repeated use of the word "interfere" in the indictment against Russians. What about words like "deceit," "trickery," etc. In a variety of articles from news outlets across the country, Matt Osborne pretty much admits that Dry Alabama was an effort to trick would-be Roy Moore voters into changing their votes or not voting at all.

Osborne and his associates might wind up escaping criminal scrutiny, and Doug Jones might find a way to cover up the smell from Dry Alabama. But they would have been wise to take a closer look at the law and refuse to get in the muck to begin with.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Father of three in England and substitute teacher in Connecticut have their lives upended by computer viruses that launch pornographic images onto screens


Consider a father of three in England and a female substitute teacher in Connecticut. How might their lives intersect? The answer, in one instance, is that their computers contracted viruses that led to pornography charges, turning their lives upside down.

The 2003 case of Julian Green in the UK received international news coverage and might be the best-known example of virus-borne child porn wreaking havoc on someone's life. In about the same time frame, Julie Amero was trying to fulfill the thankless task of being a substitute teacher, in Norwich CT, when students saw pornographic images popping up on her school-issued laptop. The images apparently were of adult porn, but Amero still faced criminal charges that took years to resolve.

Could a virus, pop-up ad, or spam be responsible for images that are central to the pending Missouri child-porn case of U.S. v. Scott J. Wells? It's too early to say, but if that proves to be the case, Wells will not have been the first person to be put through hell because of a computer virus linked to porn. From a New York Times piece on the Julian Green case:

One evening late in 2001, Julian Green's 7-year-old daughter came upstairs from the computer room of their home in the resort town of Torquay, in western England, and said, ''The home page has changed, and it's something not very nice.''

When Mr. Green checked the machine, he found that the family PC seemed almost possessed. The Internet home page had somehow been switched so that the computer displayed a child pornography site when the browser software started up. Even if he turned the machine off, it would turn itself back on and dial the Internet on its own.

Mr. Green called the computer maker and followed instructions to return his PC to a G-rated state. The pornography went away, but the computer still often crashed and kept connecting to the Internet even when ''there was no one in the blinking house,'' he said.

The call to customer service, it turned out, hardly was a solution:

But Mr. Green's problems were only beginning. Last October, local police knocked on his door, searched his home and seized his computer. They found no sign of pornography in his home but discovered 172 images of child pornography on the computer's hard drive. They arrested Mr. Green. This month, Mr. Green was acquitted in Exeter Crown Court after arguing that the material had been gathered without his knowledge by a rogue program created by hackers -- a so-called Trojan horse -- that had infected his PC, probably during innocent Internet surfing. Mr. Green, 45, is one of the first people to use this defense successfully.

While a case that played out in the British legal system sets no precedent in the United States, legal experts say the technical issues raise two troubling possibilities. For one, actual child pornographers could arm themselves with a new alibi that would be difficult to disprove. Or, unknowing Web surfers could find themselves charged with possessing illegal material that a lurking software program has acquired.

''The scary thing is not that the defense might work,'' said Mark Rasch, a former federal computer crime prosecutor. ''The scary thing is that the defense might be right,'' and that hijacked computers could be turned to an evil purpose without an owner's knowledge or consent.

''The nightmare scenario,'' Mr. Rasch said, ''is somebody might go to jail for something he didn't do because he was set up.''

How bad can this be for the wrongfully accused?

Mr. Green was eventually exonerated, but his life has been turned upside down by the accusations. His ex-wife went to court soon after his arrest and gained custody of their youngest child and his house. Mr. Green, who is disabled because of a degenerative disk disease, spent nine days in prison and three months in a ''bail hostel,'' or halfway house, and was allowed only supervised visits with his daughter.

''There's some little sicko out there who's doing this,'' Mr. Green said, ''and he's ruined my life. I've got to fight to get everything back.''

He said he had no clue how the rogue software showed up on his computer. ''I never download anything. and as far as I knew, no others had,'' he said.

While the Green case was resolved relatively quickly, the Amero case in Connecticut dragged on for about four years. From a report at Wired:

Accused of letting impressionable students see pornographic pictures as she browsed the web in her classroom, former Connecticut school teacher Julie Amero dodged felony charges last Friday by agreeing to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor charge and surrendering her state teaching credentials, according to the Hartford Courant.

But if a soon-to-be released forensic report about her hard drive is accurate, Amero's guilty plea is hardly justice – since the school computer had adware, the anti-virus software on the computer had been discontinued, and the technical testimony at her trial was amateurish and flawed.

Julie Amero
 Amero, a substitute teacher in Norwich, Connecticut, was arrested after students in her class reported that they'd seen pornographic images on her computer screen on Oct. 19, 2004. Amero said the computer wouldn't stop sending pop-ups and that she didn't know what to do with the computer.
In January 2007, she was convicted of four felony pornography charges and faced up to 40 years in prison.

Computer-forensics experts came to Amero's aid, attempting to correct what they feared a court had botched. From an article at the Hartford Courant:

The state of Connecticut spent two years investigating before it won a speedy conviction of Julie Amero -- the infamous Norwich porn teacher -- this January.

But it was never as tidy as the Norwich Public Schools, the Norwich police, the state of Connecticut and the Norwich Bulletin newspaper made it seem.

In truth, Amero, a clumsy computer novice, was the victim of malicious software that took over the PC in the classroom where she was substituting on Oct. 19, 2004. Since Amero's arrest, the state has refused to even consider this possibility.

Then, a few weeks ago, as Amero faced sentencing, Assistant State's Attorney David J. Smith filed a startling motion in Superior Court:

"The state has not completed a full examination of all the issues which may affect its position at the sentence hearing."

Translation: We were wrong. We are trying to figure a CYA way out of this mess.

How did the truth come out. The Courant explains:

Thankfully, a team of computer security experts from throughout the country, drawn to the case by outraged Internet bloggers and a handful of journalists, has presented Smith and his bosses with the truth.

Amero didn't click on the porn. Software that might have blocked the porn was months out of date. Critical evidence was mishandled. School and police computer "experts" who testified were woefully ignorant about computer security and porn spyware to the point that their testimony was blatantly false.

The state's case began unraveling soon after the hapless jury voted to convict. A firestorm of pressure -- from university professors and software executives to programmers -- forced repeated postponements of Amero's sentencing.

But never underestimate public officials when they are cornered. When Amero is finally sentenced, expect a deal that keeps the egg off the many faces behind this sham trial.

Inevitably, Amero will be exonerated. We all deserve an apology for this insulting case.

As the Courant predicted, the case ended with a whimper, as Amero pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.

Monday, March 18, 2019

In goofy marijuana-possession case against former NFL player Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri cops can't keep their stories -- or their math -- straight


Dorial Green-Beckham mugshot
How screwy was the probation-revocation proceeding in Springfield, Missouri, that caused former NFL player Dorial Green-Beckham ("DGB") to land in the Greene County Jail for 90 days? Based on local press reports, the sentence was grounded largely on the word of police officers who apparently cannot count.

As my wife, Carol, and I know from firsthand experience, Circuit Judge Jerry Harmison tends to buy anything crooked cops and prosecutors throw at him -- and that's why Green-Beckham now is behind bars. But was Harmison's ruling based on facts and the law? We don't have access to the full court file, but news accounts suggest there is enough doubt to choke a rhinoceros on the marijuana-possession charge that caused DGB's probation in a DWI case to be revoked.

How goofy is the justice system here in the Southwest Missouri Ozarks, once perhaps best known as the home to Jed Clampett and his family of hillbillies, before they moved to Beverly Hills? Even Jed likely would have been amused by the DGB charade, had he heard about it while lounging around his "cement pond."

When Green-Beckham was arrested last December on the drug charge, the headline in USA Today was "Ex-NFL WR Dorial Green-Beckham arrested with pound of marijuana, police say." The headline in the local Springfield News-Leader was pretty much the same -- "Dorial Green-Beckham caught with pound of pot after drug raid in Springfield, police say." So, it's established that cops caught DGB with a pound of pot, right? Well, not exactly.

First, I should note that I'm a novice when it comes to matters involving marijuana and the like -- except for my reporting on MJ cases involving my nephews -- Blake Shuler and Noah Shuler. But my research indicates a pound is quite a bit of pot.

While I'm hardly an expert on pot, I apparently know a lot more than the loons in the Springfield Police Department. This is from a local newspaper account of Green-Beckham's recent probation-revocation hearing, written by reporter Harrison Keegan:

. . . testimony provided more details about the December drug arrest. Police initially said Green-Beckham was found with a pound of marijuana and officers discovered an additional 7 pounds of marijuana at the house.

On [March 8], however, officers said Green-Beckham had less than 35 grams of marijuana in his pocket when he was arrested, but investigators believe he was also responsible for an additional one pound of marijuana found inside the house.

Green-Beckham was not the target of the drug-related search warrant.

Let's allow that to sink in for a moment. OK, what does the above tell us?

(1)  Cops said last December -- to the accompaniment of blaring headlines -- that Green-Beckham was found in possession of a pound of marijuana.

(2) Now, roughly three months later, cops say Green-Beckham had less than 35 grams. "Oops, our bad," say the cops.

(3) How much less than 35 grams did DGB possess? Was it 5 grams, 2 grams, 1 gram? Cops don't seem to have an answer. We probably would have no reason to believe them if they pulled an answer out of their collective fannies?

(4) What happened to the 7 pounds of marijuana that was originally in the house? Did cops smoke it, eat it, sell it? We don't know, but it apparently had nothing to do with the guy who now is in jail.

(5) Cops now say they "believe" DGB is responsible for 1 pound of pot found inside the house. Why do they "believe" that? DGB did not reside in the house, and cops claim he was not the target of the search warrant. Is Dorial Green-Beckham now behind bars based on what clueless cops "believe" but cannot prove?

DGB with the Philadelphia Eagles
A little math adds to the circus atmosphere surrounding this case. Our research indicates 1 pound of pot equals roughly 450 grams. Now that DGB is said to have possessed less than 35 grams, it appears cops missed the total by a mere 415 grams (at least). As for the mythical 7 pounds of grass, that is 3,150 grams for which cops no longer can account. Gee, these guys are precise, aren't they? Would anyone, other than Judge Jerry Harmison believe a word these clowns say?

Why does 35 grams seem to be a magic number for Springfield cops? It's probably because the city code, section 78-261, is called "Possession of thirty-five grams or less of marijuana." That probably is the code section under which Green-Beckham was arrested.

Harmison's actions in the DGB case are no surprise to Carol and me. We saw Harmison over and over ignore cops' inconsistent statements, even outright perjury. He apparently took much the same approach to the DGB case. (Motions re: perjury, inconsistent testimony, and court errors in the Carol Shuler case are embedded at the end of this post.)

How ugly might the incarceration of Dorial Green-Beckham be? I will admit that I am a cynic toward law enforcement, but I don't think it takes a huge leap of imagination to consider the following: Green-Beckham's pro football career has been pretty much a flop, so far, but he still is a wealthy guy, especially by Springfield, MO standards. When the Tennessee Titans signed DGB in 2015, he received $5.3 million in guaranteed money and a signing bonus.

It's safe to say that DGB probably has enough money to last a lifetime, if he handles it wisely, and he's the most celebrated black guy in Springfield, MO -- maybe in the city's history. In an area known for its right-wing politics, it's not hard to find people here with less-than-progressive views on race -- and that likely is especially true among law enforcement.

Given cops' inability to keep their story straight, is it possible they did target Dorial Green-Beckham and even planted a baggie of weed on him? We might never know the whole truth, but that scenario would not surprise me one bit.





Thursday, March 14, 2019

Hidden cameras, traffic stops, and envelopes stuffed with cash were part of Florida prostitution sting that has ties to politics, Trump, and the Republican Party


Robert Kraft
Legally questionable traffic stops and cleverly placed cameras played a central role in the Florida prostitution sting that netted the arrest of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, among others, according to a new report from the Miami Herald. Oh, and don't forget envelopes stuffed with cash, frozen at perhaps the nation's two most famed banks.

The prostitution story has become a political story since revelations that the founder of targeted massage parlors (Cindy Yang) has been active in fundraising for Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

The Herald examined search warrants to determine how the sting operation started and how it led to the arrest of 26 men, including Kraft, so far. From the newspaper's account:

It began in October with a tip from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office and a Google search of a massage parlor review site called Rubmaps.com. By the middle of March, at least 12 bank accounts had been frozen, 26 men were charged with soliciting prostitution and the two women accused of running the establishment were under house arrest, wearing ankle bracelets, and had to pay more than $500,000 to get out of jail.

But it’s what happened between those dates and what the search warrants don’t fully explain that gave the takedown of a nondescript little strip mall massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida, its international prominence: the charging of a billionaire football team owner.

Later, came a bizarre ancillary development, when it turned out that the former owner of the spa was a woman who took selfies with President Donald Trump, Sen. Rick Scott, Gov. Ron DeSantis and a host of other Republican luminaries.

The sting operation began about five months ago, and at one point, police watched as a golf party of eight entered the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, FL. From the Herald:

According to recently released search warrants from the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, Jupiter police were tipped off to suspected illicit activity at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter on Oct. 18. The agency had received a tip from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, which by then was well into a prostitution and human trafficking investigation that would result in the closing of 10 spas and the arrest of hundreds of johns.

By Nov. 6, police were surveilling the Jupiter massage parlor from the outside. In just over a week, police said they saw more than 80 men enter the business, including one golf party of eight, and stay for no longer than 45 minutes. By Nov. 14, according to the warrant, the state Department of Health was called in to take a look. It reported that the spa had beds and dressers and that women appeared to be living there.

How did police gather evidence? In some cases, it was messy:

A woman tossing trash into a bin out back caught the attention of police. Police searched the trash bin and after piecing torn-up paper back together, determined it was a spreadsheet listing names, times and type of payments, and whether they were cash or credit.

Also inside a plastic bag, according to police: “Several plastic napkins which were wet and appeared to be covered in [semen].”

Before long, cops were closing in on the massage parlor customers:

By Jan. 10, police began following customers as they left the premises and stopped them for various traffic infractions, the search warrant claims. Almost all the men had the same story: They paid about $70 for a back massage and when that was done, a masseuse would work on their genitals until they climaxed.

What about the placement of cameras, which reportedly caught Kraft in action:

On Jan. 17, Jupiter police said they used a “tactical ruse” to get everyone out of the spa. What type of ruse they used is not explained. But detectives said they were able to enter the spa and place surveillance cameras in four of the massage rooms and the main lobby.

That’s also when police first came into contact with Hua Zhang, 58, and Lei Wang, 45, the two women who police say ran the enterprise.

Two days later, a visit to the spa by the 77-year-old owner of the six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots would eventually generate national headlines for Orchids of Asia. Police say Robert Kraft first visited the spa on Jan. 19. The next day, less than 10 hours before his team was to kick off the AFC Championship game in Kansas City more than 1,400 miles away, Kraft visited once again, according to police documents.

Police say they knew it was Kraft because he handed over his license during the traffic stop of his white Bentley on Jan. 19. When he visited the next day, he was in his blue Bentley, police say. They also claim to have his encounter inside the spa on surveillance video. Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution. He has since pleaded not guilty.

Questions already are being raised about police tactics in the case:

Attorney Eric Schwartzreich, who represents one of the customers charged, took issue with the “Sneak and Peek” warrants that were initially authorized as part of the Patriot Act, when federal agents were chasing down suspected terrorists. He also said “it certainly raises eyebrows” that all the men committed driving infractions after leaving the spa.

Orchids of Asia in Jupiter, FL
“They’re claiming human trafficking, which is a serious offense,” Schwartzreich said. “But if the women were being victimized like they said, how could they sit there and watch the acts and not make arrests?”

Richard Kibbey is a Stuart attorney representing about 30 clients — some of whom were arrested, others who visited spas, and some who were not. Like Schwartzreich, he has concerns that just about every person arrested was stopped for a traffic infraction. He has also petitioned the court not to release any of the video from inside the spas until discovery is made public.

“Up until yesterday [Monday], not much material had been released, so it was difficult to be specific on challenges,” he said. “But no one has been found guilty of anything yet. It’s premature to release it.”

We do know, however, that the case involves some financial oddities:

The search warrant also led police to at least nine accounts at Bank of America and J.P. Morgan that have since been frozen. The warrants claim that at least 14 envelopes were found at Bank of America containing $10,000 each.

Where did all of that cash come from? That is one of many questions still to be answered.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Former football standout Dorial Green-Beckham and my wife, Carol, share the distinction of being cheated by the same crooked courts in the Missouri Ozarks


Dorial Green-Beckham
I never dreamed my wife, Carol, would have something in common with a former player in the National Football League. In a roundabout way, Carol now even has a connection to Coach Nick Saban's recruiting operation with the Alabama Crimson Tide. No kidding.

How did this happen? Well, it centers around Dorial Green-Beckham ("DGB"), who might be the finest athlete Missouri ever has produced. Like Carol, Green-Beckham has been exposed to the hideously crooked and incompetent "justice system" in Missouri. In fact, they both have been on the receiving end of dubious rulings from Greene County Circuit Judge Jerry Harmison, an appointee of scandal-plagued and departed GOP governor Eric Greitens.

Harmison cheated Carol last spring, finding her guilty of misdemeanor "assault on a law enforcement officer," even though the "victim" (deputy Jeremy Lynn) admitted in a written report and in sworn testimony that he initiated contact with Carol -- meaning, as a matter of law, Carol could not have committed the offense. (Motions re: perjury and multiple court errors in the Carol Shuler case are embedded at the end of this post.)

Green-Beckham appeared before Harmison last week on a prosecution motion to revoke his probation in a DUI case, following his recent arrest on a marijuana possession charge. That might seem like a fairly straightforward court matter. But officers from the Springfield Police Department turned it into a scene from a Three Stooges movie. Harmison, as he showed in Carol's case, apparently believes prosecutors and law-enforcement officers can do no wrong, so he ruled against Green-Beckham -- sentencing him to 90 days in jail -- even though overwhelming doubt surrounds the drug charge that led to the probation revocation.

We will have more details about the DGB court fiasco in a moment, but first, we have established he and Carol share the "distinction" of being cheated by the same crooked judge in Missouri and by the same inept law-enforcement community. So, how does all of this connect to Nick Saban and Bama's recruiting machine?  Well, I will admit it's a stretch, but hang in there with me on this.

Dorial Green-Beckham, while playing at Hillcrest High School in Springfield, set a national high-school record for receiving yardage. At 6-6, 225 pounds, with world-class speed, Green-Beckham was ranked the No. 1 college-football recruit in the nation for 2012. DGB was such a scintillating prospect that Nick Saban his own self recruited him -- and as we know from watching Bama rack up national championships like many folks get parking tickets, Nick doesn't recruit just anyone, only the best.

Green-Beckham wound up spurning Saban -- along with Auburn, Arkansas, Texas, Ohio State, and just about every powerhouse in college football -- to sign with his home-state Missouri Tigers. Green-Beckham had two fairly productive season at Mizzou before being dismissed from the program after a couple of brushes with the law. He transferred to the University of Oklahoma but never played for the Sooners before entering the 2015 NFL draft.

The Tennessee Titans drafted Green-Beckham in the second round, and on June 1, 2015, the Titans signed him to a 4-year, $5.6-million contract with $3.0 million guaranteed and a $2.3-million signing bonus. As a rookie with Tennessee, Green-Beckham played 16 games with 549 receiving yards and four touchdowns. After one season, the Titans traded DGB to the Philadelphia Eagles, for whom he appeared in 15 games, with 392 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2016. The Eagles waived him in summer 2017, and Green-Beckham, despite possessing all of the attributes that should make him a star, has struggled to get a foothold in the NFL. He has not played the last two seasons.

Judge Jerry Harmison and Green-Beckham attorney
Tyson Martin
DGB's sports legacy, however, does not end with football. I've never seen him play basketball, but I know a few folks who have, and they say he might be a better basketball player than a football player. He received numerous scholarship offers from high-major college basketball programs, and probably would have received even more if it had not been widely assumed he would choose the football route.

Before his most recent legal troubles, Green-Beckham reportedly had attracted attention from teams in the Canadian Football League. I would like to see him get his life straightened out and hook up with a college basketball program, where I suspect he quickly would become a star. He might even develop into an NBA prospect, although 6-6 is considered an "in between" height for pro hoops -- sort of a forward and sort of a guard.

Any hoop dreams DGB might hold will be difficult to achieve while he's in jail. What kind of process led to his current incarceration? Calling it a joke would be kind.


(To be continued)