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.


legalschnauzer said...

BTW, Ms. McPherson is the woman on the left (Merrill's right) in the photo at the bottom from National File.

legalschnauzer said...

That photo apparently is from Merrill's Facebook page.

Anonymous said...

I live in Montgomery area and rumors have been wild about Merrill for years. I suspect this isn't the only paramour he has kept on the side. Was only a matter of time until he got caught.

Anonymous said...

So, we're looking at Mo Brooks in the U.S. Senate for the next 25 years?

legalschnauzer said...

I would say the chances of Mo Brooks in the Senate just shot up dramatically. And given the history of the Richard Shelby seat, it's kind of a "senator for life" type of deal.

legalschnauzer said...

From John Merrill’s bright future in Alabama politics faces scandalous end

Long having an ambition for higher office, John Merrill’s political future is now on hold after the Alabama secretary of state said he would not seek elected office in 2022 and acknowledged he had an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman for three years.

Known for freely giving out his cell phone number when speaking at public events, Merrill initially denied the relationship before confronted him with an audio recording of a conversation between him and the woman, Cesaire McPherson. . . .

Long having an ambition for higher office, John Merrill’s political future is now on hold after the Alabama secretary of state said he would not seek elected office in 2022 and acknowledged he had an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman for three years.

Known for freely giving out his cell phone number when speaking at public events, Merrill initially denied the relationship before confronted him with an audio recording of a conversation between him and the woman, Cesaire McPherson.

Anonymous said...

Where Merrill looks so bad is from lying repeatedly about the affair and then getting caught on tape.

Anonymous said...

But . . . but . . . Monica Lewinsky.

legalschnauzer said...

Washington Post: Confronted with leaked phone call, Alabama Republican John Merrill admits to affair, drops Senate bid

On Wednesday morning, Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill went on a local conservative radio show to deny a story posted by a right-wing blog claiming he had an affair with a legal assistant, who also accused him of using racist language. The story was a false smear designed to end his bid for U.S. Senate, he said.

“People are attempting to use this to either advance the candidacy of other people, or they are doing it primarily to harm me and my family,” he said on the radio. “It’s very frustrating and very sad.”

Hours later, when an reporter confronted him with a recording of an explicit phone call between Merrill and the woman, the politician changed his story. Merrill acknowledged the affair — and said he would drop his plans to run for Senate.

“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,” Merrill, who is married with two children, told “I’m also disappointed that I allowed my family to be embarrassed by this action. And it’s something that I certainly will always regret because of the pain that it has caused my family.”

legalschnauzer said...

More from WaPo:

The revelations threw a wrench into the race to succeed Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), who is retiring. Merrill was one of several likely GOP contenders for the seat, including Republican Rep. Mo Brooks, who has promoted election fraud claims and was endorsed by former president Donald Trump on Wednesday.

Merrill, a native of Wedowee, Ala., comes from a family deeply engaged in public life. His father was a state judge and other family members have served as lieutenant governor, state representatives, and Alabama Supreme Court justices.

Merrill was first elected to public office in 2010, when he joined the Alabama House of Representatives. He was elected secretary of state in 2014 and handily won a second term in 2018.

While campaigning for secretary of state, rumors that Merrill had a consensual encounter with a married woman in 2010 circulated online, in newspaper comment sections, emails and blogs. The allegation stemmed from depositions in an unnamed woman’s divorce case, in which she testified that she and Merrill had engaged in oral sex, reported. Merrill told reporters that the woman had kissed him, unbuttoned his shirt, removed his belt, and fondled him, but denied oral sex occurred.

legalschnauzer said...

One correction re: Washington Post -- That 2014-15 story, which I broke, was not about rumors. It originated from sworn testimony, under oath, in a divorce case. Incidentally, I broke the story after reporter Kyle Whitmire admitted having the story but sitting on it.

Interesting that did not let Merrill con them this time.

MSM coverage of that first Merrill story was a classic example of white, GOP privilege in the Deep South. No candidate of color would have been treated so softly.

legalschnauzer said...

Dana Jill Simpson, former Alabama whistle blower and GOP oppo researcher, says on Facebook the Merrill story is a shot in a battle between Trumpers (Mo Brooks) and Karl Rove types (Merrill) for control of the Republican Party. Not much of a choice between those two brands.

Anonymous said...

This is just the tip lf the iceburg. I won't be surprised if Nicole Jones comes out soon.

legalschnauzer said...

From Dana Jill Simpson:

The republicans knew for years that the Merrill Affair story Roger Alan Shuler
told was true but it appears after Roger outed the last lady Merrill started it up with a new one named Cesaire McPherson. I heard today the Alabama Democrats sent out pretty much a notice they did not care what was up Merrill's butt saying something along the line consenting adult can do whatever all the Democratic party cared about is his racism but I got to say I think Alabama Citizens will care about Merrill's behavior and demand he resign. I might add I am amused Mo Brooks pulled off seeing this Trump endorsement came right at time Merrill butt plugs story came out. One thing you can say about Trump is he is not a fan of the Corrupt Alabama Gang or Karl Rove's bunch. I suspect 2021 and 2022 is going to be a very interesting year as Rove's candidates and Trump's candidates duke it out.

legalschnauzer said...

Looks like Round One goes to Trump.

legalschnauzer said...

Ain't nothin but a horn dog
Boppin' all the time
Ain't nothin but a horn dog
Boppin' all the time
If you don't have a butt plug,
You ain't no friend of mine

Anonymous said...

As I sat down for breakfast this morning, I thought to myself, "I hope I can get through the day without reading about butt plugs." Well, so much for that . . .

legalschnauzer said...

From David Griner, on Twitter:

My hunch is Merrill won't be able to serve out his term once it's made clear just how much of his affair was carried out via his state-issued phone, state-issued truck and while on the clock. But who knows. Why he'd WANT to stay in the role at this point is beyond me.

legalschnauzer said...

Could part of what David Griner mentions above rise to the level of criminal violations of Alabama Ethics Law?

legalschnauzer said...

@9:29 --

The story that's been floating around for years is about a woman from Huntsville. The name escapes me at the moment. I think she had political ambitions, might have run for office -- or considered a run for something.

legalschnauzer said...

This is from my 2015 post that broke the original John Merrill affair story:

Secretary of State John H. Merrill (R-Tuscaloosa) is the Alabama politician whose extramarital affair was revealed in court documents but went unreported in the mainstream press.

Kyle Whitmire, a reporter for, admitted in a column on Tuesday that, prior to the 2014 general election, he had court documents that provided details about an unnamed public official's affair. The quality of the information was not in question because it involved sworn testimony in a deposition. Whitmire said it was "as close as it comes" to having a "story cold," but he "stuck it away," apparently not even consulting an editor about it. Whitmire hinted that other reporters in the mainstream press had received the information and ignored it.

Merrill, a Republican ally of former governor Bob Riley and a friend of Riley's son Rob, went on to handily win the secretary of state race over Democrat Lula Albert-Kaigler. Would Merrill have won if Whitmire had revealed the contents of court documents in his possession? That's hard to say. But multiple sources told Legal Schnauzer yesterday that the documents in question are from a divorce case in Tuscaloosa Circuit Court styled Bryan Scott Brinyark v. Mildred Murphree Brinyark.

Sources sent us copies of Millie Brinyark's deposition in the case, dated September 22, 2010, and Merrill's name is front and center. Ms. Brinyark, a former teacher, admits to allowing the married Merrill to touch her "private parts" and that she performed oral sex on him. A portion of the deposition, with key parts highlighted in yellow, is embedded at the end of this post.

Whitmire's column came in the wake of a vow from State Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), Alabama's first openly gay lawmaker, to expose the affairs of her political colleagues if they continued to criticize a recent federal-court ruling in Mobile that declared the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Todd especially mentioned House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Attorney General Luther Strange, and unnamed others who might stand against gay marriage on "family values" grounds.

Todd appeared on MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes show on Tuesday night and reportedly has heard from Jon Stewart's highly rated The Daily Show on Comedy Central. So far, Todd has not exposed any of her colleagues, but you might say that our readers helped us beat her to it.

We're not aware of any stance that Merrill has taken on gay marriage, but he has the kind of conservative "credentials" that Todd had in mind. During the 2014 campaign, Merrill was a favorite of the pro-business and religious communities, picking up endorsements from the Business Council of Alabama (led by Bill Canary), Alabama Conservative Christians, the National Rifle Association, Alabama Farmers Federation, and the Alabama Association of Realtors.

Even former Crimson Tide basketball coach Wimp Sanderson (who had extramarital issues of his own.) endorsed Merrill. "I know what he believes in, and what principles guide him," Sanderson said. That certainly appears to be true.

Merrill's official biography at the Secretary of State Web site says he is a deacon at Calvary Baptist Church and has served as a Sunday School teacher. The "pro family" bases seem to be covered:

John has been married to the former Cindy Benford of Phil Campbell for twenty-nine years. She is the principal at Westwood Elementary School in Coker. The couple has two children, Brooks (24), a graduate of The University of Alabama and graduate student at The University of South Florida, and Allie Grace (21), a senior at The University

The official bio says Merrill has been "very active in his community." Millie Brinyark's deposition shows just how active he has been.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Dana Simpson, this may have been pulled off by Shelby's team. As he had promised his seat to Merrill, but has since favored his Chief of Staff Katie Boyd Britt. And ridding Merrill is his way of clearing the field for Katie.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:53 --

You make a good point. Katie Boyd Britt probably has a name-recognition problem at the moment, but that could change pretty quickly. If you assume Mo Brooks will say, or do, something stupid along the way -- a good bet, I'd say -- Britt could jump toward the front of the pack. You and Jill seem to agree that the Merrill take down was a politically engineered inside job, within the GOP.

legalschnauzer said...

Any chance Rob Riley tries to sneak into the field? I think he should give it a shot.

Anonymous said...

At least Merrill had the decency to go after an adult, an actual woman, instead of a high-school girl -- like Matt Gaetz.

legalschnauzer said...

Speaking of Matt Gaetz, his problems might just be getting started . . .

Yahoo: Sources: Gaetz trip to Bahamas part of federal probe into sex trafficking

Federal investigators are looking into a Bahamas trip Matt Gaetz allegedly took in late 2018 or early 2019 as part of an inquiry into whether the Florida representative violated sex trafficking laws, multiple sources told CBS News.Gaetz was on that trip with a marijuana entrepreneur and hand surgeon named Jason Pirozzolo, who allegedly paid for the travel expenses, accommodations, and female escorts, the sources said.

Investigators are trying to determine if the escorts were illegally trafficked across state or international lines for the purpose of sex with the congressman.

"Traveling across state lines is what creates a federal hook for a prosecution," Arlo Devlin-Brown, a former prosecutor and partner at Covington & Burling, said in a report that aired on the "CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell." "It doesn't matter that [Gaetz] personally paid them as long as he knows someone is doing that."

Unknown said...

Do they HAVE those laws bc they don't seem to care much for following said laws...

Unknown said...

Mr. Shuler, just want to thank you again for your dedication. It's been a hard road and you have been fighting the good fight for so long. Egads I do enjoy the occasional come-uppance. This situation is... fulfilling.

Anonymous said...

Nicole Jones is another rather kooky type associated with John Merrill. She's with another politician now, so their affair probably has ended. She used to brag about it as you can see from her company's reviews here:

legalschnauzer said...

Interesting. Who is her current politico companion, if you are free to share? If so, might want to respond to my private Also could give you my phone contact, if that would be best.