Monday, April 26, 2021

Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman with dementia, suffers broken arm and other injuries after cops rough her up during arrest for alleged shoplifting in Colorado


Evidence is overwhelming that Black Americans absorb the majority of damage rogue law-enforcement officers inflict on our society. But a case is unfolding in Colorado that seems to break the mold. In fact, the arrest and brutalization of Karen Garner goes beyond boundaries of race, gender, age, even mental-health status. (See video above.)

Garner, a 73-year-old white woman with dementia, was shopping at a Loveland, CO, Wal-Mart when she allegedly walked out of the store without paying for several items. Given her mental status, did Garner simply forget to pay for the items? Does this happen fairly often with those who have dementia?

Those questions revolve around a federal lawsuit that has been filed on Garner's behalf, alleging excessive use of force and serious bodily injury. From a report at in Denver:

The Loveland Police Department is responding to a federal lawsuit that alleges “excessive use of force” and serious injury during an arrest of a woman in her 70s. The department became aware of the lawsuit on Wednesday after body camera video was posted on the Loveland Police Department’s Facebook page. 

The shoplifting arrest of Karen Garner, 73, happened on June 26, 2020. Police said they will investigate the incident that will include “an examination of all images, documents and records compiled” in connection with the event. Garner was suspected of having taken $13.88 in items from a Walmart without paying for them.

The Life & Liberty Law Office representing Garner said that she suffers from dementia and sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to verbally communicate and understand others’ communications. She is also 5-feet and weighs 80 pounds. According to her attorneys, on the day in question, she was walking through a field, picking wildflowers when Officer Hopp stopped, called out to her to stop and talk to him.

According to the statement from the Life & Liberty Law Office, When she indicated she did not understand him, and turned to continue walking home, he grabbed her and violently assaulted her, twisting her arms behind her back, throwing her to the ground and handcuffing her. Just eight seconds passed between Officer Hopp reaching Ms. Garner and Officer Hopp throwing her tiny body to the ground and putting her in handcuffs. Defendant Officer Jalali then arrived and assisted Officer Hopp in violently and needlessly dislocating Ms. Garner’s shoulder, fracturing her humerus, and spraining her wrist. Then they threw her onto the ground again and hog-tied her. Throughout this attack, the only thing the terrified, disabled and injured Ms. Garner was able to utter was “I’m going home!”. She cried out these words over 38 times.

Don't police have methods for a situation like this that don't involve breaking an elderly woman's arm, dislocating her shoulder, spraining her wrist, and forcing her to be hog-tied? Those seem to be among numerous questions Garner's lawyers are asking:

Garner’s lawyers accuse supervising officer Sgt. Metzler of helping his subordinates cover up the brutality and allegedly directed that Garner be denied access to medical care for her injuries. Metzler also is alleged to have kept his own body camera deactivated and failed to write a report regarding use of force, both of which are claimed to be a violation of the Loveland Police Department’s written policies.

The attorneys go on to claim that Garner was ignored despite repeated complaints of pain and that medical care was not sought for her in the several hours she remained with police, instead she was handcuffed to a cell at the station for more than 2 hours. She was then transferred to the Larimer County Jail where she remained for another 3 hours without medical treatment.

According to Loveland police, the arresting officer has been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation’s outcome. An officer who assisted in the arrest and the on-scene supervisor have been reassigned to administrative duties.

Garner’s attorneys say that since her arrest last summer, she has become withdrawn, depressed, afraid to go outdoors and that she needs help getting dressed and showering because she has lost most functional use of her left arm.

A report at includes perspective from Wal-Mart employees:

[Garner's] crime? The lawsuit suggests she attempted to leave a Walmart with less than $14 worth of items she forgot to purchase. A statement from Walmart indicates that police were called only after Garner became "physical" with an associate.

“We stopped Ms. Garner after noticing her attempt to take merchandise from the store without paying for it," the statement says. "When we addressed this issue directly with her the situation escalated when she forcibly removed an associate’s facemask and fled the store. The police were called only after Ms. Garner became physical with an associate.”

The lawsuit says Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder, a broken humerus and a sprained wrist during the arrest which happened not long after she left the store.

The arrest, captured on an officer’s body camera, repeatedly shows Garner saying, “I’m going home” to the arresting officer.

She was two blocks away from her home.

Sarah Schielke, of Loveland, is the lead attorney for Garner: 

Sarah Schielke

            According to the lawsuit, Garner spent two hours inside a Loveland Police jail cell and an                    additional three hours inside a cell at the Larimer County Jail.

Attorney Sarah Schielke, who represents Garner, said the arresting officers told the Larimer County jail staff that Garner was uninjured despite obvious signs that she had painful injuries.

Garner, according to Schielke, is 5 feet tall and weighs 80 pounds.

The lawsuit says Garner left the Walmart with a Pepsi, a candy bar, a t-shirt and some Shout Wipe refills.

“Walmart employees stopped her and escorted her back inside, where they took the items back. Ms. Garner attempted to hand them her credit card to pay, but they refused,” the lawsuit reads. 

“Ms. Garner, unable to communicate with them or fully grasp what was going on, then walked out of the store and began walking the short distance back to her home,” it says.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A loose coalition of right-wing media types, including Roy Moore's son, brought about John Merrill's fall; and for that, Alabamians should be deeply grateful

John Merrill and Cesaire McPherson


As an avowed progressive, I generally hold little regard for right-wing media. But after reading "Sex, lies and the Alabama secretary of state: The fall of John Merrill," a recent article at, I might have to reconsider that tune.

The article, by Connor Sheets and Kyle Whitmire, shows that a loose coalition of right-wing media types -- with Caleb Moore (son of Roy Moore) in the middle of it all -- helped run Merrill out of the 2022 U.S. Senate race by exposing his most recent sex scandal.

Any entity that might eventually rid Alabama of John Merrill altogether can't be all bad. So hats off to the right-wing media hit group -- and to Sheets and Whitmire for revealing their good deeds. Here is the heart of the story:

For more than two years, John Merrill carried on an affair, secure in the assumption that his secret life was safe so long as the woman he slept with didn’t go public about it.

However, on April 6 a self-described “New Right” political blog published recordings of Cesaire McPherson speaking in explicit terms about her relationship with Merrill. It might have been as much a surprise to McPherson as it was to the secretary of state. . . . 

A day after the audio of McPherson was published, Merrill, a married father of two, admitted the affair and announced that he would not make an anticipated run for U.S. Senate - or any other elected office - next year.

His fall revealed something important and new: The emergence of an ecosystem of hyper-partisan political media, one openly loyal to former President Donald Trump and supporting America First candidates, a new set of players gunning for politicians under a new set of rules.

These sites have taken up the role of supermarket tabloids that worked outside the practices of mainstream journalism to break stories on former President Bill Clinton and other political philanderers, said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute and co-author of Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload.

Like them or not, these sites are part of the political culture and a place where campaigns and operatives can put what they want into circulation.

“Now they basically can set up their own website and publish it and make you have to react,” Rosenstiel said. “That’s the new world.”

McPherson was not pleased with reporting on the story. But hey, she helped bring down John Merrill, so props to her, too:

The first that McPherson found out her name and voice had been released online was when a radio host from Minnesota reached out to her for an interview, McPherson said.

She now says she was tricked into giving up her anonymity and that she didn’t know that the things she said were being recorded. At least one of the people who set up that phone call denies she was recorded without being aware.

To be clear, McPherson wanted the world to know what had happened . . . in her relationship with Merrill. But she was reluctant to do it while also revealing her name.

First, she went to local media, but she didn’t want to use her name. Then Caleb Moore, son of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, put her in touch with a man who had worked with his father’s 2017 U.S. Senate campaign.

Roy Moore has been keeping a low profile lately, so how did his son become a leading character in the Merrill drama? Sheets and Whitmire explain:

McPherson said she believes that Roy Moore has a political “vendetta” against Merrill that dates back to the Senate race, when Merrill certified the outcome despite the Moore campaign’s objections and allegations of voter fraud.

“Caleb Moore told me several times they don’t like John Merrill,” McPherson said. “They hate John Merrill, they don’t want him to run for higher office.”

Roy Moore did not respond to inquiries seeking comment. Caleb Moore said “there’s no bad blood” between the Moore camp and Merrill and no truth to McPherson’s assertion.

But he did make the introductions.

“I connected her with a friend that does things. This was last year,” Caleb Moore told “She came to me. She wanted to talk to somebody in the media about a story and I didn’t know any of these details. So I put her in touch with Noel.”

And who is Noel?

A former Spanish teacher in North Carolina, Noel Fritsch has in recent years built a career as a conservative operative with a history of involvement in Republican campaigns and far-right causes across the country.

Described by a political news site in Mississippi in 2015 as a political consultant who provides “local help” rather than trying to be a kingmaker, he served as spokesman for Chris McDaniel, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2014. A columnist for the state’s Clarion-Ledger compared Fritsch to Darth Vader and suggested he was “responsible for McDaniel snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Little-known in Alabama politics, Fritsch does have at least one connection. In 2017, he consulted for the Roy Moore campaign. The Moore campaign paid a North Carolina company owned by Fritsch more than $60,000. . . . 

Today, Fritsch is part of a burgeoning far-right media that has broken some stories, but is also known for conspiracy theories. Yet when stories do land, they spill over into mainstream outlets, forcing responses from targeted politicians, as the revelations about Merrill’s affair did last week in Alabama.

Fritsch made his views about Merrill clear in text messages that he sent to McPherson.

On April 2, he told her, “[t]his is and has always been about the bad person you said Merrill is,” adding in another message that day that “[h]e’s a s**t person. Clearly.”

Fritsch expanded on his concerns about Merrill during a phone interview with last week in which he accused the secretary of state of election meddling, a popular topic among Trump supporters who claim that Democrats rigged the November presidential election.

“The reasons for this might be many, but at the very moment that the affair between Cesaire and John Merrill began, John Merrill was deep in the process of trying to cover up massive Russian-style voter fraud in the state of Alabama during the 2017 election,” Fritsch said.

There is no evidence that Merrill engaged in such a cover-up or that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2017 special U.S. Senate race pitting Roy Moore against various Republican rivals and then against Democrat Doug Jones.

Fritsch told that he is “self-employed” and is not being paid by any politicians, companies or organizations in Alabama.

He denied any involvement in the process that led to releasing the recording of McPherson discussing the affair.

“I heard about it when it broke in the news,” Fritsch said.

Yet communications between McPherson and Fritsch and between McPherson and Caleb Moore suggest that both men knew of her and Merrill’s relationship before it was made public.

 Caleb Moore, reports, was a key driver of the Merrill story:

McPherson provided with text messages that she exchanged with Caleb Moore late last year, which included screenshots of sexually explicit texts between her and Merrill.

“I believe you or I wouldn’t be wasting my time,” Caleb Moore wrote in a text to McPherson, responding to a message she sent stating that she had been “[l]oyal and trustworthy for almost 3 years” to Merrill.

Moore told that though he “played no part in the affair” and “had no part in reporting the story,” he introduced Fritsch and McPherson “just through, like, a chain of friends type thing” last year.

 That's where another right-leaning media type enters the picture:

McPherson and Moore texted occasionally, but she said she didn’t have contact with Fritsch again until April 2, when McPherson and Fritsch talked on the phone. She said Fritsch looped in a third person, writer Patrick Howley.

“[Fritsch] just said do you mind talking to my friend? He said we’re not going to put anything out, we’re just discussing, we’re just discussing. And that’s what Patrick even said – we’re just discussing it, we’re just having a discussion,” McPherson said.

Asked by repeatedly whether he was on the April 2 call, Fritsch would not answer yes or no, instead saying three times, “Patrick Howley had a 90-minute phone conversation with this woman.”

Beyond consulting work, according to The Daily Beast, Fritsch is involved in Big League Politics, a far-right news website launched in 2017 by former Breitbart employees including Howley.

Until 2019, Howley – who recently guest-hosted for Alex Jones on Infowars – was editor-in-chief of Big League Politics, where he broke the news earlier that year that old yearbook photos showed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in blackface.

Two weeks ago, on National File, Howley published the audio recording of McPherson discussing her sexual history with Merrill, a move that she said violated her understanding of the terms of her interview.

Howley did not respond to requests for comment. But less than three hours after sent him an email on Monday, he tweeted that “[a] mainstream media reporter is doing what he thinks is a hit piece on me following one of my recent journalistic grand slams.”

Spencer Sunshine, a New York-based researcher, activist and political consultant who specializes in American extremism and has published guidebooks on the right and the proliferation of “soft far-right websites that are, you know, the temperature of Trumpism, not openly white nationalism.”

He said it’s unusual, but not unheard of, for sites like these to break news. “If someone, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to go to the regular press,” he said, “they’ll go to one of these places.”


Bottom line: John Merrill's fall, which is incomplete at the moment, was precipitated by his own kind  -- a combination of Caleb Moore, Noel Fritsch, Patrick Howley (and perhaps unknown others). Did Merrill become a target because he ticked off Trumpers? That's not clear. But if Merrill's fall becomes complete, everyone who cares about Alabama should thank the media guys on the right -- and Cesaire McPherson. They have done a public service.

Monday, April 19, 2021

"Eggshell Skull Rule" means Derek Chauvin had to take George Floyd "as he found him," raising the likelihood of conviction in Minnesota murder trial


Closing arguments are set to begin today in the case of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, on trial for murder in the death of George Floyd. Defense attorneys are expected to argue that Floyd died from pre-existing health conditions -- even though expert witnesses for the prosecution have testified the death was due to "asphyxiation from compression," due to Chauvin placing his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.

Even if jurors choose to ignore the testimony of prosecution witnesses, should the defense argument get anywhere? The answer is no, and that's because of a common-law rule that dates to a 1901 case in England styled Dulieu v. White. It's called the "Eggshell Skull Rule" (also called the "Thin Skull Rule"), and it applies in both civil and criminal cases. Here is the gist of it, from Wikipedia:

This rule holds that a tortfeasor is liable for all consequences resulting from their tortious (usually negligent) activities leading to an injury to another person, even if the victim suffers an unusually high level of damage (e.g. due to a pre-existing vulnerability or medical condition). The eggshell skull rule takes into account the physical, social, and economic attributes of the plaintiff which might make them more susceptible to injury. It may also take into account the family and cultural environment. The term implies that if a person had a skull as delicate as that of the shell of an egg, and a tortfeasor who was unaware of the condition injured that person's head, causing the skull unexpectedly to break, the defendant would be held liable for all damages resulting from the wrongful contact, even if the tortfeasor did not intend to cause such a severe injury.

Our research indicates the Eggshell Rule is most likely to apply in a tort case, but it could become a key factor in a criminal matter, such as the Floyd case. From Wikipedia:

In criminal law, the general maxim is that the defendant must "take their victims as they find them", as echoed in the judgment of Lord Justice Lawton in R v. Blaue (1975), in which the defendant was held responsible for killing his victim, despite his contention that her refusal of a blood transfusion constituted an intervening act.

Does this mean Chauvin is a lock to be convicted? Probably not, but his defense team has a high hill to climb, and one of its primary arguments -- by law -- should not get very far. At least one journalist covering the Chauvin trial already has addressed the "Eggshell Skull Rule." From a report by Stephen Groves at Associated Press:

As attorneys argued over whether to allow evidence from George Floyd's 2019 arrest at the trial of a former police officer charged in his death in 2020, Judge Peter Cahill wanted to know the relevance of Floyd's behavior a year before he died.

Weren’t Derek Chauvin and other officers “duty bound to deal with the arrestee as they find them?” Cahill asked.

Those very words -- that officers are “duty bound to deal with the arrestee as they find them” -- form the heart of the "Eggshell Skull Rule." That Judge Cahill clearly is aware of the rule -- and you never can assume that a judge knows the law -- probably is not a good sign for Chauvin. Here is more from AP's Stephen Groves:

Legal and criminal justice experts say Cahill was expressing a longstanding concept that police officers are required to protect not only themselves and the public, but the person they are arresting. That duty could be key at the trial that starts with opening statements Monday, especially as the defense asserts that Floyd's swallowing of pills contributed to his death.

“You always want to keep in mind what our motto is and that is to protect and serve the public. That includes the arrestee,” said Mylan Masson, who once headed police training at Hennepin Technical College and served on the Minnesota Police Officers Standards and Training Board for more than 20 years.

The Minneapolis Police Department sought to train its officers to minimize violence in the years before Floyd died. In 2016, the department rewrote its use of force policy to emphasize the “sanctity of life,” and began training officers in de-escalation — calming people down to prevent violence.

“The point of this new use of force policy was to communicate to officers to not do exactly what Chauvin did,” said Alex Vitale, a Brooklyn College sociology professor who has argued for sweeping criminal justice reform. Floyd's death indicates the 2016 reforms in Minneapolis didn't work, he said.

The AP report gets even more specific about a legal doctrine that dates back some 120 years:


Defense attorney Eric Nelson has repeatedly sought to use evidence from the 2019 arrest, when Floyd swallowed drugs and a paramedic told him he had dangerously high blood pressure. Nelson argued that striking similarities in the two arrests justified the jury hearing about the earlier one.

The judge ultimately decided to allow some evidence from that arrest, though he limited it to information possibly pertaining to the cause of death and excluded Floyd’s “emotional behavior,” such as calling out to his mother, which he did in both incidents.

Ted Sampsell-Jones, a law professor at Mitchell Hamline Law School, noted that Minnesota's “common plan” doctrine allows lawyers to outline comparable behaviors to demonstrate a pattern.

“This is being admitted to show similar behavior, namely that Floyd attempted to conceal drugs by ingesting them as he was being arrested, and that he almost had a heart attack as a result,” Sampsell-Jones said, referring to Floyd's 2019 arrest.

Legal experts said Chauvin's defense team will surely bring in expert witnesses who will point to the fentanyl found in Floyd's body during an autopsy as a contributing factor in his death.

Prosecutors argued that the admission of the 2019 arrest would allow the defense lawyer to smear Floyd for using drugs to excuse his client’s actions, but Cahill said he would stop the defense “very quickly” from suggesting at trial that Floyd didn’t deserve sympathy.

Floyd also had severe heart disease, but legal experts say there is a legal doctrine — known as the “eggshell skull rule” — that just because a person who commits wrongdoing is in a fragile state of health, it doesn't excuse another from liability for causing them injury. Though the principle applies to personal injury lawsuits, legal experts said it may also weigh on the case and how the judge instructs the jury to view Floyd's health and drug use.

“The jury will have to decide — listening to dueling autopsy reviews — what was the cause of death?” Schultz said.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright in Minnesota raises this troubling question: How on earth does a 26-year veteran officer mistake a gun for a taser?

Daunte Wright protest


A Minnesota police officer fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man, during a traffic stop on Sunday in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, with news reports indicating the oficer meant to grab a taser instead of firing with her gun. That this could happen during an already tense time, with Derek Chauvin on trial for murder in the police-related death of George Floyd, boggles the mind. Even more unbelievable is this: The mistaken use of a gun over a taser is not a new issue in law enforcement.

Officer Kim Potter has submitted a resignation letter, but she leaves behind this question: How does a 26-year veteran of the police force mistake a gun for a taser? It apparently happens more than many of us might imagine. From a 2015 Associated Press report titled, "Stun gun or handgun: How often do police get confused?":

Robert Bates, the volunteer sheriff's deputy who killed an unarmed suspect in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on April 2, says he accidentally fired his handgun when he meant to deploy his stun gun. Bates pled "not guilty" to second-degree manslaughter charges at a court hearing Tuesday. He apologized for killing Eric Harris last week but described his deadly mistake as a common problem in law enforcement, saying: "This has happened a number of times around the country. ... You must believe me, it can happen to anyone."

Bates' statement does not appear to be altogether accurate:

Experts agree this is a real but very rare occurrence that probably happens less than once a year nationwide. A 2012 article published in the monthly law journal of Americans for Effective Law Enforcement documented nine cases in which officers shot suspects with handguns when they said they meant to fire stun guns dating back to 2001. The list included three instances in California and one each in Minnesota, Maryland, Arizona, Washington, Kentucky and Canada. For perspective, Taser International says its stun guns have been deployed more than 2.7 million times in the field.

Still, how do such mix-ups happen at all?

The way officers carry their weapons, how officers are trained and the stress of dangerous, chaotic situations have been cited. To avoid confusion, officers typically carry their stun guns on their weak sides, away from handguns that are carried on the side of their strong arms. A right-handed officer, for instance, would carry his handgun on his right and his stun gun on his left. In many of the documented cases of confusion, however, the two weapons were holstered near each other on the officers' strong side. . . . 

Bill Lewinski, an expert on police psychology and founder of The Force Science Institute in Mankato, Minnesota, has coined the phrase "slip and capture" errors to describe them. Lewinski, who has testified on behalf of police, has said officers sometimes perform the direct opposite of their intended actions under stress — their actions "slip" and are "captured" by a stronger response. He notes that officers train far more often on drawing and firing their handguns than they do on their stun guns.

Other experts are critical of his theory, calling it junk science and arguing that well-trained officers should not confuse the two weapons.

A 2016 AP report shows such incidents can have an awful mix of tragedy and (for lack of a better word) comedy:

When Alfred Olango pulled out an object from his right pocket last month and assumed a shooting stance in a strip mall parking lot in a San Diego suburb, one officer opened fire with his pistol. The other officer simultaneously stunned Olango using his Taser.

Civil rights advocates say the different response by officers facing the same suspect illustrates a breakdown in police training and communication and shows that some officers are too quick to turn to deadly force.

The Sept. 27 shooting death of the 38-year-old Ugandan refugee who turned out to be wielding an electronic cigarette device came 11 days after another unarmed black man, 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, died in Tulsa, Oklahoma after being shot by two officers also simultaneously firing a gun and a Taser.

“I think when one police officer feels it is appropriate to use a less lethal weapon like a Taser, and the other officer feels like the person has to be killed — it suggests a real divergence in training,” said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s criminal law reform project.

He added: “I think it highlights that we have a serious problem in this country, which has been seen played out over and over again with police using lethal force in circumstances where it is not necessary and not justified.”

Susan Zhang, writing at Truthout, says there is reason to doubt the Minnesota cops' stories:

The police officer who shot Wright alleges that she had meant to pull out her taser but pulled out her gun instead. Many have cast doubt on that narrative, however; as news outlets like The New York Times have noted, tasers and the type of gun the officer killed Wright with feel very different in hand. They’re also typically worn on opposite sides of an officer’s hip to avoid confusion.

“Not. An. Accident. Why was this cop wanting to pull a taser on a 20-year old kid for expired tags in the first place? Absurd,” wrote leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington). “Impossible that a veteran cop couldn’t tell difference between taser and gun. We need real consequences for these killings.” Potter is a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department.

Others noted that, if even after extensive training, police can’t distinguish between a gun and a taser, then the system is flawed. There have been multiple similar incidents before, including in Minneapolis, where a police officer had supposedly meant to pull out a stun gun and instead shot someone.

“If someone has been a police officer for 26 years and can’t distinguish a gun from a taser, that’s a solid indication as any that training will do nothing and it’s time to abolish this relic of slavery,” said Bree Newsome Bass on Twitter, racial advocate and artist.

Monday, April 12, 2021

With roundabout ties to an Ohio bribery scandal (on Alabama Power's behalf) and questions about possible misuse of public resources, John Merrill faces mounting pressure in aftermath of sex scandal

John Merrill and Cesaire McPherson

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who admitted to an extramarital affair last week that caused him to step out of the 2022 race for a U.S. Senate seat, might face impeachment if an investigation shows he used taxpayer resources to facilitate the affair, one state lawmaker says. Aside from that, public documents show Merrill used financial support from one of the state's most powerful corporate entities, Alabama Power, to further his political ambitions, according to a report at -- and that relationship led Merrill to the periphery of a nasty environment-related scandal in the Midwest.. 

Alabama Power already has sketchy associations to the North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal and a related $75-million lawsuit from a former executive at Drummond Company. Now, public documents show the company has ties to John Merrill and his fondness for the use of butt plugs in intimate moments -- even having sex with his mistress in the Merrill "marital bed"? Yikes, the public-relations woes are mounting at the Power Company. Reports Publisher K.B. Forbes at under the headline "Tied Up and Pinned: Alabama Power Stooge Tumbles in Disgraceful Sex Scandal":

On Wednesday, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill lied about engaging in a scandalous sex affair.

After raunchy texts and audio recordings were released . . ., he admitted to the “tie-her-up-and-bite-me” affair of three years and dropped out as a U.S. Senate candidate.

Merrill is a long-time Alabama Power stooge having received over $13,000 in political contributions from the Alabama Power Employees State PAC.

 Merrill has been happy to pay tribute to power-company top dogs:

In December, Merrill honored “the most powerful man in Alabama” Mark A. Crosswhite, the CEO and Chairman of Alabama Power, with an award for keeping the lights on during election night. The awards ceremony was a ridiculous celebration of what utilities are obligated to do: keep the lights on and prevent power outages to a minimum. 

 Merrill also has done some political dirty work for his benefactors at Alabama Power. Reports Forbes:

Merrill was the same fool who last April attacked Daniel Tait of the Energy and Policy Institute. The Energy and Policy Institute helped bring down the Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder last July in an alleged $60 million bribery ring involving Ohio utilities and well-connected lobbyists, one of whom appears to have committed suicide three weeks ago.

Merrill dispatched an alleged “ghost-written” letter to Tait whining about the Institute’s legal status, funding, and compensation just three months before the debacle in Ohio.

And what provoked that letter?

Scrutiny by the Institute and other environmentalists about electric utility TVA’s failure to respond to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, and opposition to power generation permits before the Alabama Public Service Commission.

And who was requesting those permits?

Alabama Power.

Merrill stepped into an apparent bribery scandal -- at least on the edges of it -- on Alabama Power's behalf? Yikes! It's not like Merrill needs to invite more scrutiny at the moment. Writes Forbes:

As painful and uncomfortable as it is to hear, Merrill allegedly liked, among other alleged deviant behavior, to have clothes pins put on his nipples, according to his mistress.

Who did Alabama Power or the utility’s goons allegedly have to pinch or tie so that Merrill, like stooge Luther Strange, would sign an alleged “ghost-written” letter that has no relevance to his statewide office or constitutional mandates?

As for scrutiny of Merrill, State Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham) might be willing to provide some. She compared the Merrill matter to that of disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley. Reports

An Alabama lawmaker who served with John Merrill in the House of Representatives said there should be an investigation into whether the secretary of state misused state property in carrying out an extramarital affair.

Merrill admitted to the affair Wednesday after the woman involved gave a recording of a phone call that refuted Merrill’s earlier denials.

Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said the situation raises concerns that could be similar to what happened with former Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned in 2017 after the House started impeachment proceedings and the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause against the governor. An impeachment investigation produced a report that accused Bentley of using state law enforcement to hide evidence of an extramarital affair with his top adviser.

“I do feel that with regards to anything dealing with state funds, state vehicles, state property, I think that there should be a hard look on any matters that will address whether or not the secretary of state was in violation of any state laws,” Givan said.

During an interview with an reporter Wednesday night Merrill was asked about whether he misused state property. Merrill said at that point he would have no further comment on the situation. Merrill has not returned a call about Givan’s comments today.

While Merrill has pulled the plug on a planned U.S. Senate race, he has not resigned from his current position. Givan suggested pressure could mount for him to resign:

Givan spoke to reporters in the press room on the House floor while representatives met today. There was little or no open talk about Merrill’s situation among lawmakers. But Givan said that could change. She was asked if she thinks there will be a move to impeach Merrill.

“I’m sure there will be a hard discussion, and I’m sure there will eventually be a hard discussion in the Alabama Republican Party,” she said.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon declined to comment on Merrill’s situation or speculate whether it could lead to another impeachment case like four years ago.

“It’s just a sad situation,” McCutcheon said. “I hate he’s going through that with him and his family.”

Givan said her purpose was not to sit in judgment on Merrill’s personal behavior but noted that he holds one of the most important elected offices in the state. The Secretary of State is Alabama’s top election official, among other responsibilities.

“I think it would just be in John’s best interest, if he truly loves the state of Alabama, that he would step down,” Givan said.

“Every year I get a Christmas card from John Merrill and it has his family on it. And it breaks my heart. … We all have fallen short,” Givan said. “I’m not here to judge him in that regard. But in this instance, he is a public official. Had that been me, I would have been asked to step down yesterday."

Friday, April 9, 2021

"Unfinished business," including $75-million lawsuit and enhanced regulatory scrutiny, could prove hurdles as Drummond heirs seek to sell coal company

Drummond Company


Descendants of the late CEO Garry Neil Drummond are trying to sell Drummond Company amid slumping demand for coal, according to a report at But a possible sale might face a number of stumbling blocks, including an unresolved $75-million lawsuit related to the North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal. Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, under the headline "Round 1: “Unfinished Business” Against Three Stooges Mounts": 

As we predicted last year, the sheer and uncontrolled panic of Alabama Power, Balch & Bingham and Drummond Company with the possible rebirth of the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal would provoke an avalanche of investigations and probes under a new administration and congressional leadership.

The Three Stooges were utter fools.

Round one: the national media are investigating and putting pressure against Drummond Company.

In an extensive piece in E&E News on environmental justice, Drummond’s deal for its polluting ABC Coke Plant in North Birmingham is now under scrutiny. E&E writes:

But what happened — and didn’t happen — next tells a disquieting tale of a status quo that has long left people of color and low-income communities disproportionately exposed to toxic air pollution….

[F]ederal regulators dithered. Local officials obfuscated. And the coke plant, located less than a mile from an elementary school, has continued to spew tons of cancer-causing benzene and other hazardous pollutants each year. Almost a full decade passed before a court-enforced cleanup agreement was locked in — and that happened earlier this year only after EPA fought residents’ efforts to amend the final deal.

In a ruling last summer, U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon rejected any restrictions. That was followed this January with a final consent decree that — unusually — differed modestly from the 2019 draft.

But unfinished business remains. 

After [Jefferson] county health officials again renewed the plant’s operating air permit two years ago, [environmental group] GASP in June 2019 filed a protest with EPA. Among other objections, the group said that the permit lacked requirements related to total annual benzene in the byproduct recovery plant’s waste streams. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is supposed to respond definitively within 60 days. More than 21 months later, GASP has yet to get an answer. EPA’s review is “ongoing,” the agency spokesperson said.

What does this mean? Forbes provides the answer:

That environmental racism and injustice will be dealt with and not be hidden by political friends, connections or cohorts in Alabama or Washington, D.C .

Drummond, which has provided hundreds of millions of dollars worth of coal products to Alabama Power, is the first of the three stooges to be in the spotlight.

As the heirs of Garry Drummond attempt to sell their global coal operations to Chinese or Central Asian interests, the baggage from North Birmingham, the $75 million lawsuit from David Roberson, and the federal probes percolating on the sidelines may hinder any future hopes of “closing the deal.”

Thursday, April 8, 2021

John Merrill, Alabama's GOP secretary of state, pulls the plug on 2022 U.S. Senate run after explicit reports about extramarital affair with Montgomery woman

Cesaire McPherson (Facebook)


Alabama's Republican Secretary of State John Merrill will not run for U.S. Senate in 2022 after admitting to an extramarital affair, according to reports yesterday from at least two state news outlets. An article about the affair first surfaced in the right-wing National File, and Merrill denied that report. But he admitted the affair took place to reporters after being confronted with an audio recording provided by the woman who claimed to be his lover. Yellow Hammer News(YH) followed with another report yesterday. Reports YH

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill released a statement on Wednesday ruling out a run for public office in 2022.

Merrill’s decision comes after a 2019 extramarital affair he conducted with a 44-year-old legal aide in Montgomery surfaced online in recent days.

“After much prayer, reflection, and conversations with my wife, Cindy, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for any office in 2022,” Merrill said in a statement provided by his official office.

Merrill did not show any inclination to resigning before his term ends in January 2023, saying “I am surrounded by a great team and we look forward to finishing the goals we set out to achieve before our term ends.”

The first evidence of Merrill’s marital infidelities was reported by the hyperpartisan outlet National File on Tuesday afternoon.

It alleged that Merrill, who is married with children, carried on a months-long sexual affair with Cesaire McPherson, a Montgomery resident.

The National File report included what appeared to be firsthand evidence of illicit communications between Merrill and McPherson, including texts, photos and an audio recording.

Still, Merrill  denied the report until confronted with audio evidence that could not be denied. This is not the first time Merrill has denied reports of extramarital activities. In 2015, Legal Schnauzer broke the story of Merrill's relationship with a Tuscaloosa woman named Millie Brinyark, based on documents from Brinyark's divorce case. Merrill admitted to a "sexual encounter," but denied receiving oral sex. Amazingly, he mostly got away with that "explanation." But his denials don't seem to be working this time. Reports about Merrill's latest indiscretion:

After initially denying reports of an affair, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on Wednesday afternoon told that he had “an inappropriate relationship” with a 44-year-old woman and will not make an anticipated run for the U.S. Senate.

“I will obviously not be a candidate for the United States Senate nor will I be seeking any other elected position in 2022, because I think it’s important to me to make sure that I become the man that I have been before and that I am working to put myself in the position to be the leader that I have been before, as a husband, as a father, as a friend and as an elected official,”

Merrill, elected Alabama’s secretary of state in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, and was term limited from seeking a third term in 2022.

“With the end of my term coming up in January of 2023, I have been presented with a variety of options for where my path in public service could lead,” a statement from his office read. “I have decided that I will not be a candidate for any office in 2022.”

This time, the more Merrill denied an affair, he more he sank into quicksand:

In an interview with on Wednesday morning, Merrill denied having had an affair and accused Cesaire McPherson of “stalking” and “harassing” him.

McPherson declined to answer questions on the record Wednesday, instead providing a recording and a short statement.

“I don’t want to say anything other than here’s the proof that John Merrill is a liar,” she said. “Here’s the true John Merrill.”

McPherson provided with a recording of an October 2020 conversation between her and Merrill, who is a Republican. In the 17-minute recording, Merrill and McPherson discuss various sexual acts they performed during dozens of romantic encounters that McPherson says took place between November 2017 and November 2020. During the conversation, Merrill seems to try to end his relationship with McPherson, who was reluctant to break off the affair. He told her they had met for the last time and that he was seeking help from the Lord to stay away from her.

  Ultimately, Merrill admits in the interview there is no excuse for his behavior:

After being played a portion of the recording Wednesday, Merrill, who is married with two children, told “there’s no excuse” for his extramarital relationship.

“It’s clear that I had an inappropriate relationship with her, and it is not something that I am proud of or something that is something that — I’m very disappointed in myself. I’m also disappointed that I allowed my family to be embarrassed by this action,” he said. “And it’s something that I certainly will always regret because of the pain that it has caused my family.”

McPherson’s allegations were first made public yesterday on the right-wing web site National File.

Early in the call, McPherson asks Merrill, “the last time that we had sex, that’s the last time ever?” Merrill responded, “well, it was a pretty good day.” McPherson asks again if “that’s the last time ever” and Merrill says “it’s supposedly the last time ever.”

McPherson goes on to ask Merrill in explicit detail about sex acts she says they engaged in on multiple occasions and about specific locations.

He told her later in the call he hoped to draw strength from God to resist continuing their affair.

“I am not able to stay away from you, so that’s the reason why I have to have help in order to do that … the help is coming from the Lord,” Merrill said.

“You already went against your marriage … So you’ve already done it, you can’t take that back, you can’t change it,” McPherson said.

The National File article definitely is not for the squeamish or easily offended. It is filled with raw and explicit language. Here is a sampling: 

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who is expected to run for U.S. Senate, had an extramarital affair from July 2019 to November 2020, his ex-mistress Cesaire McPherson told NATIONAL FILE. Cesaire McPherson, a legal assistant, said that she slept with John Merrill in his marital bed.

Merrill enjoyed having his anus breached with sex toys, according to McPherson, who also said that Merrill used his government vehicle to visit her home and used his official phone to send text messages. McPherson said that she recorded herself having sex with the Secretary of State on one occasion. McPherson said that Merrill engaged in physical fights with her that led to bruises on her body, with the politician grabbing and shoving her. McPherson also said that Merrill is a “real bad racist” who made disparaging remarks about African-Americans in her presence. NATIONAL FILE has obtained text messages that McPherson said Merrill exchanged with her.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Tommy Gallion's amended complaint in gambling-related lawsuit against Del Marsh & Co. points to reporting that supports allegations of bribery

Del Marsh


Individuals named in a gambling-related lawsuit have denied in press reports that bribery, or discussions of bribery, took place to give the Poarch Creek Indians monopolistic control over gaming in Alabama. But an amended complaint, filed by Montgomery attorney Tommy Gallion, alleges that bribery, in fact, was a part of negotiations on the recently defeated SB 214.  

The amended complaint alleges that substitute bills (SB 319 and 320) also would protect certain entities -- at the behest of corrupt Alabama lawmakers, particularly State Sens. Del Marsh and Bobby Singleton -- while harming others, such as plaintiffs Age with Dignity Inc., OIC Dream Greene County, and Dream County Inc.

Finally, the amended complaint alleges at least one news outlet, Alabama Political Reporter (APR) has been paid to reverse its position on recent gaming bills -- from opposing them to favoring them. (The amended complaint is embedded at the end of this post.)

Gallion points to an APR article, under the headline "Marsh holds meeting with gaming interest day after Ivey calls for the Legislature to stand down on gaming," to allege that improper meetings did take place regarding SB 14. Writes APR Publisher Bill Britt in the article, dated Feb. 10, 2020:

Despite Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for the Legislature to give her “time to get the facts,” on a lottery and gaming bill before proceeding with legislation, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh summoned representatives of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians and two of the state’s dog tracks to sit down and discuss moving ahead on a proposed lottery and gaming bill. 

A day after Ivey’s State of the State, Marsh, along with Senators Bobby Singleton and Steve Livingston, held a conference with Robbie McGhee, PCI’s Vice-chair, Lewis Benefield, who operates VictoryLand and the Birmingham Race Course, and Nat Winn from Greenetrack to try and reach an agreement among the three gaming entities.

Marsh, at the Wednesday meeting, informed those gathered that they needed to come up with a compromise on the gaming issue so that legislation could proceed with a constitutional amendment on a lottery and gaming package this session. 

Participants in the closed-door meeting declined to speak with APR about the content of their discussions. However, those who have knowledge of the conversation did relay some of the details to APR.

According to those sources, the group discussed what a compromise might look like, what tax revenue the facilities would be allotted to the state and locations sought by PCI.

Reportedly, the discussions were generally cordial and productive while lawmakers were present, but that the tone changed dramatically once the lawmakers left the room.

Two sources with an understanding of events said that McGhee turned arrogantly defiant after the legislators left, telling the track owners that PCI didn’t need to compromise because they already have the votes necessary to pass their desired legislation.

APR reporter Josh Moon wrote a highly critical article about the initial complaint, and Gallion hints in his amended complaint that was not by chance:

Moon has intentionally with malice interfered with the plaintiffs' lawsuit by publishing a false and libelous story in its state-wide publication titled "A lawsuit has been filed over gambling bill. It is ridiculous and there are no facts to back up the lawsuit." Moon is known as an inept and sloppy reporter, who hides behind his scurrilous and yellow-journalist publications by prefacing his articles as "Opinion." Moon obviously rushed to help the . . . promoters of SB 214 and failed to adhere to . . . checking the facts.

. . . If Mr. Moon had gone to the trouble to review the articles written by Bill Britt, his boss . . ., he would have found the truth. Moon, in essence, has called his boss Britt and APR liars.

Perhaps Moon . . . should go to the past publication of his employer, APR and he will discover the following. On Oct. 31, 2012, Britt published an article in APR titled "ALGOP finance chairman pays visit to Poarch Creek Indians." On Nov. 16, 2012, Britt wrote an article titled "Gambling money linked to 2001 GOP takeover of Alabama Senate." On April 9, 2013, Britt wrote an article titled "Marsh launches coverup of gambling money."

As stated above, the plaintiffs' allegations are factually based on Moon's own employer publications. Britt denied these facts in his own article, which makes Britt, Moon, and APR either liars or, at best, the most hypocritical reporters in the history of Alabama journalism. . . . 

The question that the plaintiffs believe they will discover during the stages of this litigation, is how much money, if any, did Britt, Moon, and/or APR receive to . . . deny their own quoted articles in this litigation and totally reverse their previous publications backed up by interviews. Now, APR and Moon are continuing to write articles to support the Poarch Creeks' so-called "educational lottery.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Derek Chauvin's defense team dusts off the "myth of the supernegro" in former Minneapolis cop's murder trial for the racially charged death of George Floyd

George Floyd arrest


Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, on trial in the death of George Floyd, is employing a defense that focuses largely on "the myth of the supernegro," according to a report at Mother Jones (Mojo). Writes Nathalie Baptiste:

“This was not an easy struggle,” said Eric Nelson, the attorney for the cop who killed George Floyd. In his opening statement in the trial of Derek Chauvin, Nelson was at pains to portray the events of May 25, 2020, as a struggle between a powerful brute and a law enforcement official trying to do his job. He wanted the jurors to visualize Floyd, pinned to the ground and struggling for air, as bigger, taller, stronger than Chauvin, the man whose knee was on Floyd’s neck. He wanted them to understand that Floyd’s size alone meant he was a threat. 

“You will see that three Minneapolis police officers could not overcome the strength of Mr. Floyd,” Nelson told the jury. Then he provided the tale of the tape, like some boxing promoter trying to hype the underdog: “Mr. Chauvin stands 5-foot-9, 140 pounds. Mr. Floyd is 6-3, weighs 223 pounds.”

And with that, the myth of the supernegro had arrived in court. The argument the defense was making was essentially that this Black man was so large, so powerful, and so dangerous that the only thing the tiny white cop could do to stop him was to kill him.

Is this a new theme on the American? Not at all, writes Baptiste; in fact, it has a lengthy history:

The idea that Black people have superhuman abilities dates back to the days of slavery. In 1811, an unnamed doctor in London published a book called Practical Rules for the Management and Medical Treatment of Negro Slaves. In it, he posits that slaves’ bodies were “much less exquisite” than white ones and thus they didn’t feel pain; they didn’t die from infections that white people died from; and they didn’t fear death. “It is certainly a very great [advantage] to be able to face death, the inevitable lot of all, as they do, not only without dismay, but with an indifference,” the author writes. To this day, many doctors believe Black people have a higher pain tolerance. And studies have shown that many people, including other Black people, believe Black people are stronger, faster, and more dangerous than other races. In the real world, this idea can be and often is fatal for Black people.

It’s clear that the defense wants the jury to see Floyd as a combative drug user who had to be restrained lest he become violent. Intimations of his vulnerability had to be banished from the record. While cross examining Genevieve Hansen, a firefighter who witnessed Floyd’s death, Nelson asked about Narcan, a nasal spray used to reverse opioid overdoses. “You’ve had a lot of experience with people overdosing—people become combative when revived?” he asked. “Not often. But it happens,” Hansen replied. In an earlier statement, Hansen had described Floyd as small. “Did you describe Floyd as a small, slim man?” Nelson asked her, implying that Floyd was anything but. Hansen acknowledged that she had, saying he appeared to be small with three grown men on top of him.

In the world evoked by the defense, the cops were innocents doing their civic duty with savagery all around them. Nelson tried to portray the bystanders as an unruly and angry crowd, attempting to interfere with police work. As he cross-examined Donald Williams, a Black man who witnessed Floyd’s death, he repeatedly asked Williams if he was “angry.” Williams responded calmly, “No, you can’t paint me out as angry,” knowing full well that being portrayed as an angry Black man would harm his credibility.

A black man, it seems, is prone to become a "supernegro" when confronted with a white police officer:

Chauvin is not the first police officer to perceive a Black person as a threat. In 2014, white police officer Timothy Loehmann fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing in a park with a toy gun. The police officer later said that he thought Rice was an adult. That same year, a white cop named Darren Wilson drew on the same racist stereotypes in his testimony before a grand jury investigating his shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. “I felt like a 5-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan,” said Wilson, only an inch shorter than Brown. 

Does the "supernegro" myth make sense, is it based on consistency? Nope, writes Baptiste:

Of course there’s a glaring inconsistency in the defense’s arguments. On the one hand, we have the superhuman Black man, whose immeasurable strength left the cop with no choice but to kneel on Floyd’s neck until he died. On the other, we have the argument that originated in the right-wingosphere and was suggested by Nelson on Monday: that Floyd was under the influence of opioids when he died. Floyd did, in fact, have a substance abuse problem. And while the state of Minnesota is arguing that Floyd died due to excessive force at the hands of Chauvin, the ex-cop’s lawyer said in court that Floyd died due to a combination of drug intoxication, heart disease, and an enlarged heart. In other words, Floyd was so weak that anything, even a routine stop by a police officer, could kill him.

So which is it? Was Floyd a superhuman Black man incapable of feeling pain or was he one normal interaction away from death?

Many of the bystanders who testified in court were brought to tears recalling the day. Darnella Frazier, a teenage witness who recorded video of Floyd’s killing, was in tears as she explained the lasting trauma from that day. Her 9-year-old cousin told the court she felt “sad and kind of mad because it felt like [Chauvin] was stopping his breathing and he was kind of hurting him.” Another teen, identified only as Alyssa, said she was “emotionally numb” in the days after Floyd’s death. 

It’s not the first time this trope will be deployed against Black people, and it certainly won’t be the last. But still there was something so jarring to listen to children and adults testify tearfully about what they witnessed at the scene of George Floyd’s death and to understand what Nelson was saying: Floyd, gasping for air, crying out in pain, calling out for his mother, was the angry, aggressive, combative one, a man so powerful that if Chauvin had removed his knee, well, that’s when the real danger would’ve begun.