Friday, May 28, 2021

Appellate court upholds convictions in North Birmingham scandal, but opinon suggests David Roberson's $75-million lawsuit is based solidly in fact


A three-judge panel of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the criminal convictions of former Drummond Company executive David Roberson and former Balch & Bingham attorney Joel Gilbert. What is next in activities related to the North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal? That remains unclear, but defense attorneys are expected to seek an en banc review from the full 11th Circuit.

The ruling certainly is not good news for Roberson, but it might be worse news for Balch. The opinion suggests Balch, in fact, deceived Roberson (and Drummond, for that matter), indicating Roberson's pending $75-million lawsuit has sold grounding in fact. The opinion even hints that Drummond could have valid civil claims against Balch, although such actions might be time-barred by now.

From a report at, under the headline: "Appeals Court Affirms Criminal Convictions of Roberson and Gilbert; Balch Skewered":

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed the criminal convictions of ex-Balch partner Joel I. Gilbert and ex-Drummond executive David Roberson in the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal.

The court issued a 37-page opinion in the unanimous 3-0 decision.

The court skewered  Balch & Bingham, writing:

Although Appellants attempt to paint the agreement between Balch and the Oliver Robinson Foundation as some sort of permissible advocacy campaign, as indicated Gilbert testified that the Foundation was the only entity asked to submit a proposal and that Gilbert and the Balch firm did not do any due diligence on the Foundation’s ability to do the work.

No due diligence! The only entity!

Investigators need to now probe how many others at Balch were involved in this criminal racket and who on Balch’s executive management board knew about it.

Alabama Power which was regularly briefed on the North Birmingham matter also needs to be probed.

The lone-wolf theory that Gilbert was the sole decision maker and mastermind appears to be unequivocally false.

Issues raised by the panel opinion do not end there. Here is more from

Even more troubling is footnote number 28.

The court writes:

In particular, [Mike] Tracy, the CEO of Drummond Company, stated that Gilbert told him that the arrangement with Representative Robinson was legal, during a meeting in which Roberson was present…. Additionally, Gilbert stated during cross-examination that he assured both Tracy and Roberson that everything was legal and ethical.

The Court of Appeals affirms that Balch & Bingham’s top partner did indeed mislead Drummond Company, Mike Tracy, and Roberson.

No doubt now that Roberson’s $75 million civil lawsuit against Balch and Drummond is more than justified.

Has Roberson paid  a price for listening to Balch's game of shuck and jive? Yes, a very high price:

Listening to Balch’s alleged lies and falsehoods, Roberson has seen his life utterly collapse in shambles. From selling the family home to an estate sale, the humiliation has been overwhelming.

Instead of backing him, Drummond Company and ex-CEO Mike Tracy foolishly threw Roberson under the bus and marched goose-step with Balch six months after Roberson’s conviction.

The question now is, why? Was Roberson a “fall guy” and set-up by others?

Drummomd Company and Tracy should face federal scrutiny.

We now expect an en banc appeal to be filed in hopes that the entire 11th Circuit hears the case, while lawyers frantically try to stall or delay Gilbert and Roberson from having to report to federal prison.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Kristen Clarke becomes the "new sheriff of civil rights" at the Justice Department, perhaps spurring renewed scrutiny of Drummond Company and its allies

Kristen Clarke


The U.S. Senate this week confirmed Kristen Clarke as the first African-American woman to serve as assistant attorney general for civil rights. Could that be the impetus for renewed scrutiny of dubious activities involving Drummond Company, Balch & Bingham, and Alabama Power -- all connected to the North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal? That question is at the heart of a new post from, under the headline "New Indictments? Drummond Family May Now Begin Biting Their Fingernails." Publisher K.B. Forbes notes Clarke's confirmation and sees it as a possible turning point in efforts to clean up environmental and race-based corruption that mostly was covered up during the Trump years. Writes Forbes:

We, the CDLU, were awaiting [Clarke's] confirmation as we begin the process to debrief the U.S. Department of Justice, the EPA, and others on the alleged corrupt if not criminal conduct in Alabama.

First up is Drummond Company and their outrageous act of trying to cross-dress as a law firm while justifying and rationalizing the abrupt firing of “Fall Guy” David Roberson.

The fundamental question for federal investigators is:

Was ex-Drummond executive David Roberson framed?

Clarke not only needs to look at the horrific Civil Rights violations of poor African-Americans in North Birmingham who were targeted in Balch & Bingham’s criminal scheme, but violations of the civil liberties of David Roberson.

What might a new investigation, a real one, of environmental racism in North Birmingham look like? Forbes has some ideas:

Clarke should expand the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal and look at the 20 or so Balch & Bingham lawyers, numerous Alabama Power executives, and an unknown number of paid consultants affiliated with the criminal scheme to suppress African-Americans from having their contaminated and toxic property tested by the EPA.

The Office of Professional Responsibility at the U.S. Department of Justice needs to look deeply into the accusations of prosecutorial misconduct by disgraced ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town who was seen chugging cocktails with Mark A. Crosswhite, CEO of Alabama Power.

Clarke and EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan need to dive into Drummond’s alleged toxic site known as Ketona Lakes near North Birmingham.

Who at Drummond knew about it and why was the alleged site of “environmental racism” kept quiet for over 35 years?

As we wrote in January:

For over 35 years, the site of two former quarries has been hidden from public view. Located in Jefferson County, not far from North Birmingham and smack in the middle of the City of Tarrant, the Ketona Lakes are quarries now filled with water.

The water is allegedly extremely contaminated and toxic. Sources tell us that Drummond acquired the property when they purchased ABC Coke, and the site had extensive underground pipes that used to go directly underground to ABC Coke.

Drummond allegedly sealed off the pipes, tore down all physical structures, and then secured, fenced, and fully abandoned the site in 1985, thinking no one would know or care. Ketona Lakes was the site of a former chemical company and decades of harmful chemicals and toxins have allegedly stayed in the soil and water.

But that's not all. Some of the state's white politicians, including former attorney general and U.S. senator Luther Strange, need to face the white-hot lights:

Clarke and the U.S. Department of Justice need to also look at blatant corruption. As we wrote in December:

We have now learned from sources that the $25,000 was allegedly hand delivered in 2014 to Attorney General [Luther] Strange when  [Mike] Thompson allegedly brought him over to Drummond Company’s executive offices, circumventing government affairs and meeting with members of the Drummond family directly. All that was missing was a brown paper bag.

Beyond the alleged bribes to Strange, federal authorities should look at the alleged “just-cut-a-check-and-don’t-ask-questions” bribery ring involving some of the most powerful corporations in Alabama.

Each and every executive at Drummond, including ex-CEO Mike Tracy, and every member of Drummond’s Board of Directors needs to be interrogated by federal investigators. Drummond family members should also come under the spotlight.

The sheer panic, and unbelievable if not outrageous court filings by Drummond shows something is not right, completely off. Even the conservative Alabama Supreme Court unanimously denied Drummond’s Writ of Mandamus earlier this month.

Perhaps the DOJ also needs to examine activities at the Jefferson County Courthouse, where judges have a tendency to seal cases involving Drummond and Balch, creating "star chambers" that unlawfully hide the public's business from public view:

We have always and repeatedly said that we have no bones to pick with Drummond Company.

Like the fools at Balch & Bingham, Drummond has attacked us, the CDLU, a non-party, falsely in court filings and went to the extreme measure of sealing the case in its entirety because of our reporting and scrutiny.

We now believe that Drummond’s Secret Star Chamber (like the first Star Chamber in the Newsome Conspiracy Case) could be possibly hiding or obscuring alleged criminal and unsavory conduct under the guise of a sealed “protective order.”

Clarke and others now need to intrude and intervene as real Civil Rights justice, environmental justice is sought.

Drummond family members may now begin biting their fingernails while Drummond’s “Confused” General Counsel Blake Andrews may need an emergency manicure.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Series of podcasts from Vice Media shine unflattering light on Drummond's past and present, as company faces uncertain future at home and unrest abroad


Vice Media has produced a series of podcasts, focusing on unsavory episodes from Drummond Company's past and present. The podcasts, called "The Crisis," come as Drummond already is operating on shaky ground -- with a possible sale in its future and violent protests rocking its operations in South America. From a post at, under the headline "Podcasts on Colombia Murders and North Birmingham Knocks Wind Out of Drummond Company":

While the heirs of Drummond Company hope to [diversify] their holdings and possibly sell their enormous coal operation in Colombia, Vice Media has stirred international intrigue in a multi-episode podcast series called, “The Crisis.”

The podcasts have come at the worst time for Drummond Company.

The podcasts come just weeks after the 20th anniversary of the murders of two Colombian labor leaders who worked for Drummond Company, one of whom was shot dead in front of his Drummond colleagues. 

In addition, now, today [5/25], Colombia is being rocked by daily and violent protests. As Reuters reported hours ago:

The Andean country has seen nearly a month of demonstrations and thousands of road blockades. Though protest leaders reached pre-agreements for talks with the government late on Monday, they have promised marches against inequality and police abuse, among other issues, will continue.

The protests and instability have caused Colombia coal exports to drop 65 percent in a single week this month according to news reports.

As for the podcasts, they do not paint a pretty picture. From a journalism standpoint, Ban Balch reports, they are "smoking hot"" They also are a mix of history and up-to-the-minute reporting. Here is a summary of several episodes:

  • Episode 1 “The Union” focuses on Drummond’s Coal Mine in Columbia, the links to paramilitary death squads, and the murder of two Colombian labor leaders at Drummond’s Colombia mine. 
  • Episode 2 “Witnesses” focuses on the development of a civil jury lawsuit against Drummond on behalf of the murdered labor leaders. 
  • Episode 3 “The Fish Dies by Opening its Mouth” focuses on the civil jury trial in Birmingham by family members of the murdered Colombia victims that Drummond Company won, other failed trials, and an eye-popping interview with Jim Adkins, an ex-CIA official who had at one time headed Drummond’s Security in Colombia. 
  • Episode 4 “Hung Out to Dry” focuses on the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal and includes interviews with ex-State Representative Oliver Robinson and ex-Drummond executive David Roberson and his wife, Anna Roberson. The podcast focuses on Balch & Bingham’s abhorrent scheme to suppress poor African-Americans from having their property tested by the EPA. 
  • Episode 5 “Confessions” focuses on testimony by ex-paramilitaries and those allegedly involved in the murders of Drummond labor leaders, including Drummond food services subcontractor, Jaime Blanco, who was sentenced to 38 years to prison for the murders
  • Epilogue “20 Years Later” focuses on the audit of food service provider Jaime Blanco, who was allegedly overpaid so that he could funnel money to paramilitary death squads, and the aftermath for the families of the murdered labor leaders.

At the heart of the reporting is this question: Can Drummond, in its current form, be trusted to operate with integrity -- in Alabama, South America, or anywhere else? From Ban Balch

As we wrote in March, “Drummond appears to have lied in court filings with manipulated Balch invoices, authorities in Colombia may no longer believe corporate officials or value Drummond’s integrity.”

And now, unfair or not, the podcasts link the unsavory and criminal behavior of the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal with the atrocities in Colombia from over two-decades ago.

Will Drummond’s top executives and “confused” General Counsel [Blake Andrews] continue to goose-step with Balch & Bingham or break the chains that has hurt the company, the brand, the Garry Drummond legacy?

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Trump administration seized phone and email records of CNN reporter Barbara Starr, and the sleazy story has ties to Alabama, via the "evil elf," Jeff Sessions

Barbara Starr, of CNN


Attacks on a free press are not quite as common as police beatings in postmodern America -- at least not yet. But the score seems to be getting tighter. The latest example came with news that the Trump administration used the Department of Justice to secretly obtain the phone and email records of a reporter from CNN. To add even more intrigue to the situation, it has a potential Alabama connection.

That catches this blogger's undivided attention, given that I have been a target of what Montgomery lawyer and author Tommy Gallion calls the "Alabama cabal." Recent state history suggests the cabal has many ways to accomplish its dirty work -- as Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy surely know -- and sources tell us one way is through control of the Alabama State Bar and the state's compromised judiciary.

So how did Team Trump, once again show its contempt for the basics of democracy -- this time, the First Amendment. CNN explains:

The Trump administration secretly sought and obtained the 2017 phone and email records of a CNN correspondent, the latest instance where federal prosecutors have taken aggressive steps targeting journalists in leak investigations.

The Justice Department informed CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, in a May 13 letter, that prosecutors had obtained her phone and email records covering two months, between June 1, 2017 to July 31, 2017. The letter listed phone numbers for Starr's Pentagon extension, the CNN Pentagon booth phone number and her home and cell phones, as well as Starr's work and personal email accounts. . . . 

The seizure of Starr's records is the third disclosure in as many weeks where the Trump administration used its Justice Department to secretly obtain communications of journalists or to expose the identity of critics of former President Donald Trump's allies.
"CNN strongly condemns the secret collection of any aspect of a journalist's correspondence, which is clearly protected by the First Amendment," said CNN President Jeff Zucker. "We are asking for an immediate meeting with the Justice Department for an explanation."
The Obama administration also came under criticism for its heavy-handed tactics toward leak investigations involving journalists. But the Trump administration aggressively pursued leak investigations as the former President frequently railed against the leaks coming out of the government. The latest disclosures appear to show the Justice Department targeting news organizations and social media companies particularly loathed by the former President.

Starr apparently was not a target of an investigation -- but her sources were, and that can have a chilling effect on a reporter's ability to report. As for that possible Alabama connection, we have this:

It is unclear when the investigation was opened, whether it happened under Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Attorney General William Barr, and what the Trump administration was looking for in Starr's records. The Justice Department confirmed the records were sought through the courts last year but provided no further explanation or context.

Here is more background from the Guardian:

Two weeks ago, the Washington Post revealed that Trump’s justice department had similarly obtained the call records of three Washington Post journalists who worked on a July 2017 story about the FBI’s investigation of Russia. In 2018, the New York Times reporter Ali Watkins, who covered the federal leak investigation of aide James A Wolfe, was notified by government officials that her email and phone records had also been seized. In all cases, content of the phone calls and emails made was not obtained.

“This is a big story that just got bigger,” said Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, in a statement. “That a journalist from another news organization had communications records seized by the Trump justice department suggests that the last administration’s efforts to intrude into reporter-source relationships and chill news gathering is more sweeping than we originally thought.”

During Trump’s tenure, the justice department notoriously attempted to come down hard on supposed leaks. Jeff Sessions, the first attorney general to serve under Trump, announced robust efforts to prosecute government employees who were disclosing sensitive information to journalists, publicly confirming that the justice department had more than tripled the number of leak investigations compared to the Obama administration.

Why does it matter that Jeff Sessions -- a former U.S. senator from Alabama and once the state's attorney general -- has an apparent affinity for attacks on a free press? Well, it matters to me because I have firsthand  experience with such attacks, having been beaten and abducted from my own home in Birmingham and tossed in jail for five months for daring to report at this blog on government corruption in Alabama and beyond..

Multiple sources tell Legal Schnauzer that Sessions and his allies -- Rob Riley, Luther Strange, Doug Jones, and Steve Windom -- have extraordinary influence with the Alabama State Bar. I have reported critically on all of those individuals, except Windom, so is it any wonder I have documented evidence of the Alabama State Bar trying to deny my right (and Mrs. Schnauzer's right) to an attorney in a civil matter involving my unlawful imprisonment? Not to me. Is it possible such skulduggery, which could qualify as obstruction of justice, wire fraud, and perhaps other crimes under federal law, still is going on? That would not surprise me one bit.

Here is something else that would not surprise me: If it turns out that Jeff Sessions brought up the idea of attacking the press to the Trump white House. If so, I'm sure the idea fell on receptive ears.

Monday, May 24, 2021

The George Floyd case proves cops can be unreliable sources, so journalists are rethinking the "police say" stories they've been cranking out for decades


Anyone who has worked in a newsroom, even for a little while, probably has written a sentence that goes something like this: "Joe M. Smith, of 1320 North Columbus St., was arrested last night while possessing marijuana, methamphetamine, and opiod tablets, police say."

Journalists might have to start rethinking sentences like that -- and it's because of those last two words, "police say." As those words suggest, police officials -- from police chiefs to media-relations types to beat cops -- long have been important sources for news organizations. But after the George Floyd case and similar disarming cases around the country, it no longer is clear that police can be counted on as reliable sources. As we bluntly put it in a recent post, "Cops lie, and they lie a lot, especially when one of their own is in trouble."

As CNN reports, the problem has gotten so severe that journalists might have to rethink the "police say" stories they crank out with regularity. Writes Brian Stelter at CNN Business:

The podcaster and cultural critic Toure tweeted on Thursday, "We interrupt our coverage of the protests of the police murder of Daunte Wright which interrupted the trial of the police murder of George Floyd to bring you coverage of the police murder of Adam Toledo."
"Police murder" is obviously a very charged term, but it reflects the emotions of this time. And his description of the news cycle is indisputable. In Minneapolis, the defense in Derek Chauvin's murder trial rested its case . . . while 10 miles north in Brooklyn Center, where Daunte Wright was killed, another curfew was declared in a bid to limit late-night protests. And in Chicago, the release of body-cam footage in the Adam Toledo case left a city on edge.
These tragedies have also spurred new conversations in newsrooms and on social media about the "police said" problem. Law enforcement authorities are important sources, but imperfect ones, just like every other type of source.
"In their initial public statements about George Floyd's death, for example, Minneapolis police didn't mention that one of its officers knelt on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes; it noted only that Floyd 'appeared to be suffering medical distress,'" WaPo's Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi wrote last summer.

Can journalists count on police sources to tell the truth? That question now is making the rounds in newsrooms: 

The long-standing reliance on police accounts -- call it the Official Narrative -- is under scrutiny, and for many good reasons. Video keeps contradicting, or at least undermining, the Official Narrative. 
"At bare minimum," NYT reporter and CNN analyst Astead Herndon wrote Thursday, "body cams repeatedly prove police are an untrustworthy journalistic source and it would seem that any media narrative reliant on 'police said' must be coupled with the context of what we also know -- police lie." 
Defector deputy editor Barry Petchesky tweeted: "A very subtle but meaningful distinction reporters could employ when citing sources who regularly lie is to, instead of writing 'police say,' use 'police claim.' Some measure of doubt is implied, and it's well-earned."

During my training at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, I had no plans to become a crime reporter, but I still spent plenty of time covering cops -- sifting through incident reports, interviewing officers (often with dead bodies nearby). Gaining such experience was one of the profession's basics. That likely never will change, but the way crime news is gathered might change:

"There are ways that journalists are taught to do a story -- and to be objective requires marshaling the judgment of other experts," professor Nikki Usher told me. "From that framework, it is hard to imagine a more authoritative source than police. How do you not quote a basic civil institution? It's like ignoring the president. You 'have' to quote the authority because they both make and verify the news."

Usher, who has a book titled "News for the Rich, White, and Blue" coming out in June, said "unfortunately those institutions and people who are always quoted have more power than those who are never quoted -- it's all knowns vs. unknowns -- and the knowns are known because of their power and appearance in the news." She concluded: "How do you dismantle literally 200 years of beat cop reporting?"

There is no easy answer to that question:

When the video of a Chicago officer fatally shooting Toledo was made public, news outlets wrestled with tough decisions about what to show and what not to show.
A prosecutor originally said that Toledo had a gun in his hand when he was shot, but the video disproved that. Police now say the gun was in his hand less than a second beforehand. 
The video is crucial -- but also excruciating to see. The same frame-by-frame scenes can be interpreted several different ways. "In my opinion, tragic as it was, the shooting was reasonable," Charles Ramsey said on CNN's "AC360" Thursday night.
Most broadcast outlets paused the tape before the moment Toledo was hit, sometimes airing the audio of the shot but not the video. Some websites were criticized for having the graphic video on autoplay when users clicked articles about the case. Block Club Chicago, a nonprofit newsroom, posted two versions of a news story -- one that said "NO VIDEO IN STORY" and the other with the video...

JUST FOR FUN: If you are a fan of The Eagles rock band, as I have been for almost 50 years, you might recognize a reference in this post from a song in The Eagles catalog. You probably will have to be a serious fan to recognize it because the song was not one of their many hit singles -- but it is a personal favorite of mine. A couple of hints: The song was from one of the band's early albums, when they were known as a country-rock band, and the reference is early in this post.

Answer: The reference, "1320 North Columbus," is from Train Leaves Here This Morning., which was the lead song on side two of the band's self-titled debut album. The song was written by Bernie Leadon, a founding member of  the Eagles, and Gene Clark (who had been a member of the Byrds.)

Here are the lyrics to Train Leaves Here This Morning, and below that, is a video from a live performance of the song, featuring the four original Eagles -- Don Henley on drums, Glenn Frey on guitar, Randy Meisner on bass, and Leadon on guitar and lead vocals:

Train Leaves Here This Morning (Eagles 2013 Remaster)

I lost ten points just for being in the right place
At exactly the wrong time
I looked right at the facts there, but I may as well have
Been completely blind
So, if you see me walking all alone
Don't look back, I'm just on my way back home
There's a train leaves here this morning, and
I don't know, what I might be on
She signed me to a contract, baby said it would
All be so life long
I looked around then for a reason
When there wasn't something more to blame it on
But, if time makes a difference while we're gone
Tell me now, and I won't be hanging on
There's a train leaves here this morning
And I don't know, what I might be on
Ooo, ooo, ooo. . Etc. ..
Thirteen-twenty North Columbus was the address
That I wrote down on my sleeve
I don't know just what she wanted
Might have been that it was getting time to leave
And I watched as the smoker passed it on
And I laughed when the joker said, lead on
'Cause there's a train leaves here this morning
And I don't know, what I might be on
And there's a train leaves here this morning
And I don't know, what I might be on


Thursday, May 20, 2021

With corruption flowing like sewage in downtown Birmingham, it's time for a Phenix City-style cleansing, starting with the Alabama Power money machine

Jay Town and Mark Crosswhite


Has Birmingham become the epicenter of corruption in Alabama, much as Phenix City was in the 1950s? Is it time for a thorough cleansing in "The Magic City"? Should that process start by addressing the free-flowing money spigot at Alabama Power? The answer to all three questions is yes, according to an analysis at Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, pointing to a photograph (see above) of Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite and disgraced former U.S. Attorney Jay Town knocking down cocktails prior to the 2018 North Birmingham Superfund criminal trial:

The photo above of disgraced ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town chugging cocktails with the Chairman and CEO of Alabama Power Mark A. Crosswhite at the Moon Shine Lounge at the Elyton Hotel is the epitome of the unethical if not corrupt environment in Alabama.

After the criminal convictions of Balch-made millionaire Joel I. Gilbert, one of the most interesting and insightful comments made to us was from a seasoned federal official who stated that the alleged corruption in Jefferson County and North Birmingham was not caused by Balch & Bingham but appeared to have been caused by the embattled law firm’s sister-wife, Alabama Power.

The mother’s milk of all corruption and bribery is money, cash money.

Alabama Power is a money horse, the most profitable wholly-owned subsidiary of Southern Company.

Alabama Power appears to spreads millions of dollars directly or through “pay-through” entities to political allies, political action committees, AstroTurf campaigns, yellow journalists, and of course, law firms like Balch & Bingham or White, Arnold & Dowd.

Folks who know their Alabama history have heard this kind of story before. Write Forbes:

In the 1940s and early 1950s, Phenix City, Alabama, was a hub of corruption and criminal misconduct. As the Associated Press reported:

“Criminals infiltrated local government, rigging elections and paying off officials. The crime figures were meticulous about paying their taxes, which kept taxes for others in Phenix City low. And they made regular donations to churches and civic causes — money that made them part of the fabric of the community.”

But all that changed on June 18, 1954 when the nominee and shoe-in for Alabama Attorney General Albert Patterson, who vowed to clean up corruption in Phenix City, was assassinated.

As Wikipedia describes:

Reaction from the state was swift. Within weeks, Governor Gordon Persons declared martial law in the city, effectively giving the Alabama National Guard the law enforcement duties in the city and the county. The state sent special prosecutors from Montgomery to replace the local judiciary.

Within six months, the Phenix City machine was dismantled.

A special grand jury in Birmingham handed down 734 indictments against local law enforcement officers, elected officials, and local business owners connected to organized crime. 

Three officials were specifically indicted for Patterson’s murder: Chief Deputy Sheriff Albert Fuller, Circuit Solicitor Arch Ferrell, and Attorney General Si Garrett. Of the three, only Fuller was convicted; he was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released after 10 years. Fuller died within the same year as his parole and claimed his innocence until his dying day. Ferrell was acquitted and Garrett was never brought to trial, as he was convalescing in a mental institution for most of the year after Patterson’s murder.

Is it time for similar action in and around Jefferson County? Is the area sullied by corporate entities and law firms -- and their political allies -- who are bad actors? Could a $75-million lawsuit from former Drummond Company executive David Roberson, essentially reopening the North Birmingham case, be the impetus for much-needed change -- and fresh air? Yes, yes, and yes, says Forbes:

Now, today, 67 years later, we see sheer and uncontrolled panic from the Three Stooges (Alabama Power, Balch, and Drummond Company) in the rebirth of the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal.

Every political asset, every judicial trick, every tactic of fear and intimidation have been used as crushing weights against David Roberson, but they have backfired. Roberson’s $75 million sealed lawsuit still stands.

These four years of reporting have proven undeniably that Balch & Bingham, Alabama Power and their stooges are utter fools. Their foolish conduct has spiraled out of control.

Like a replication from long-ago Phenix City, we have reported about the manipulation of the judicial branch, an assassination attempt, alleged bribes, staged arrests, alleged prosecutorial misconduct, a mysterious head-on car wreck, judicial fraud, a counterfeit court order, and even when the wrong family was terrorized by Balch boosters.

Forbes points an accusing finger at a corporate behemoth in downtown Birmingham, one perhaps the feds need to cut down to size:

But now the feds need to zero in on where Alabama Power is most vulnerable.

Alabama Power, like Phenix City elements of 1954, may give regular donations to civic causes, but the ugly underbelly, the vile raw sewage from Alabama Power linked to environmental racism and possible corruption needs to be investigated and cleaned up.

Mark A. Crosswhite may be forced to resign or retire.

Unlike the long-ago politico, we don’t believe Crosswhite will be “convalescing in a mental institution” anytime soon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Alabama Supreme Court denies Drummond's request to be treated like a law firm, paving the way for a possible trial in David Roberson's $75-million lawsuit

Alabama Supreme Court


The Alabama Supreme Court has denied Drummond Company's request for a writ of mandamus, apparently setting up a trial in the $75-million lawsuit of former executive David Roberson, according to a report at Jefferson County trial-court judge Tamara Harris Johnson has sealed the case file, so it's hard to fully understand the ramifications of the high court's order. But it appears Roberson and his legal team have cleared a major hurdle in a civil matter that grew from the North Birmingham Superfund criminal case. Reports under the headline "Unanimous! Drummond Company to Stand Trial; Floodgates Open":

Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court unanimously rejected Drummond Company’s Writ of Mandamus against ex-Drummond executive David Roberson’s $75 million civil lawsuit with one word, “Denied.”

In their 46-page Writ filed last December, Drummond summarized their grave concern claiming, “A man—convicted by a jury of his peers for bribery, money laundering, and fraud—has now sued his employer and a law firm claiming they caused him to be wrongfully convicted.

So will we find out if Drummond, their “confused” General Counsel Blake Andrews, and other co-conspirators indeed caused Roberson to be wrongfully convicted?

The court proceedings in Jefferson County against Drummond Company have been placed under seal in another top-secret Star Chamber.

Regardless, multiple outside factors now come into play:

These factors alone may be just enough to spur federal investigations of possible criminal and prosecutorial misconduct regardless of what happens inside the Second Star Chamber.

 Drummond has argued hat it deserves the protection generally afforded law firms under the Alabama Legal Services Liabiliy Act (ALSLA). The state's high court wasn't buying it, reports

Roberson has opened the floodgates against the Three Stooges (Drummond, Balch and Alabama Power) and stripped naked the drag queens at Drummond who tried to cross-dress themselves as a law firm.

Even the conservative Alabama Supreme Court did not buy the cross-dressing act.


If legal precedent means anything -- and Lord knows, it's supposed to -- the state's high court had little choice but to rule as it did. Here's how we framed the issue in a post last December

What is that central question Drummond seeks to place before the high court? Here's how it is stated in the company's brief:

Whether a  corporation, which is not itself a legal services provider, may avail itself of the ALSLA statute of limitations where its alleged liability is based on the conduct of its general counsel, who is a legal services provider?

        The Alabama Supreme Court already has answered that question in a case styled Alabama Educ.  Ass’n v. Nelson, 770 So. 2d 1057 (Ala. 2000). Nelson involved a teacher's efforts to sue AEA under the Alabama Legal Services Liabiliy Act (ALSLA) because of alleged legal malpractice by one of the association's in-house lawyers. That appears to be analogous to Roberson's claims related to Drummond in-house counsel Blake Andrews -- and the company's efforts to seek protection of the ALSLA and its tight statute-of-limitations, which could make the Roberson lawsuit time-barred.

        But Drummond has a slight problem -- it admits that it is not a legal-services provider, and the Alabama Supreme Court held in Nelson that the ALSLA does not apply in such situations. In essence, the state's high court found in Nelson that ALSLA does not apply to the AEA -- which,  like Drummond, is not a legal-services provider -- so it could not apply to Drummond. That means Roberson's complaint is not time-barred, and Drummond's request for interlocutory appeal should  be sent to the dead letter office. Here is the key finding in Nelson:

            We note that throughout the ALSLA, the language used by the Legislature indicate               that the  Act  was intended to apply to lawyers and law firms.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

It's tempting to view Liz Cheney as a saint for calling out Donald Trump's "Big Lie," but her family's ties to other GOP deceptions should give all of us pause

Liz Cheney


As an avowed progressive, I've become enamored lately with U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) for her willingness to call out Donald Trump for his "Big Lie" that Joe Biden did not really win the 2020 presidential election. But David Corn, of Mother Jones, cautions that folks like me should not be too quick to canonize Cheney. That's because, Corn suggests, Trump was such a godawful president that he made many of us forget how bad George W. Bush and his VP -- Dick Cheney, Liz's dad -- were.

And so, Corn is here to remind us, in a piece titled: "How Liz Cheney and Her Dad Paved the Way for the Big Lie; She says Donald Trump crossed a line. But the Bush-Cheney administration didn’t? Writes Corn:

In recent days, Liz Cheney has become the hot celeb of the American media-political world. The conservative Republican representative from Wyoming is on the verge of being excommunicated from the House GOP leadership ranks because she has dared to speak an inconvenient truth: Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and his incitement of the seditious attack on the US Capitol “is a line that cannot be crossed.” Those recent remarks—coupled with her vote to convict Trump during Impeachment II—have provoked outrage from the Trump cultists within her party who are now demanding she be stripped of her post as the conference chair, the No. 3 spot in the Republican House caucus. And the betting odds are not in favor of the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney

Cheney is undergoing a GOP version of a Soviet show trial. She has not demonstrated full and complete obedience to the party leader, so she must be destroyed. This is Orwellian. As the author of 1984 wrote, “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.” And in that dystopian novel, poor Winston Smith is tortured at the Ministry of Love until he shouts two plus two equals five. Only then is he allowed to rejoin society. Cheney challenges Trump’s Big Lie—I won!—and refuses to whitewash the January 6 attack and Trump’s responsibility for it. Consequently, GOP Big Brother must squash her, and it looks as if her fellow House Republicans will vote to remove her from the conference chair. If they could defenestrate her, they probably would. 

But for accepting reality and stating the obvious—Biden won, and it’s bad for a president to encourage a violent assault on Congress—Cheney (outside of Republican congressional circles) has won hoorays. Writing on CNN’s website, GOP consultant Scott Jennings observed that Cheney is “now positioned as a principled martyr.” In a recent Washington Post column, she wrapped herself in such noble garb, slamming Trump for “seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work—confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.” And she noted, “The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.” Cheney also sharply pointed out that her boss, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House Republican leader, said in January that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack on Congress “by mob rioters”—but has shifted his position since then. 

Should Liz Cheney be portrayed as a hero for speaking out at the risk of hurting her political future? Not so fast, says Corn:

Cheney does these days look like a courageous truth-teller, defying the cultism and alternative-fact addiction that has taken over her Grand Old Party. But, in a way, she is the victim of her own success–that is, the success of her family. In particular, the success her father had in lying to the American public.

In the 21st century, American presidents have at least twice tried to shape the world with a lie of enormous impact. Trump attempted to demolish the nation’s constitutional order and retain power with his false claim that the 2020 election was rigged and Joe Biden did not truly receive more votes. As Cheney points out, this lie delegitimizes the essence of the American political system. And two decades ago, another Big Lie was concocted and pushed by a Republican president that resulted in profound (and lethal) consequences. Her dad was its main architect.

That was the untrue allegation that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass of destruction and was prepared to use them against the United States. The Bush-Cheney administration used these charges to garner public support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Dick Cheney was the chief pitchman for this flimflam. In an August 2002 speech, he proclaimed, “There is no doubt [Saddam] is amassing [WMDs] to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” Soon after that, he publicly asserted that Saddam was trying to obtain aluminum tubes that could only be used for enriching uranium for weapons. And he also publicly cited a report that one of the 9/11 ringleaders had met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague.

None of this was true. And Dick Cheney’s lies were not the result of intelligence failures. U.S. intelligence over the previous year had assessed that Saddam did not have a worrisome WMD program. Government scientists had concluded that the aluminum tubes in question were not usable for weapon-grade enrichment. And the CIA had discredited that Prague report. Yet none of this inhibited Cheney and President George W. Bush. They spent months dishing out an assortment of false statements—including the untrue claim that Saddam was in league with al-Qaeda—to grease the way to war. They succeeded. Bush won the support of Congress and the American public for his massive blunder in Iraq.

The invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam’s dictatorship but it yielded a geo-strategic and deadly mess in the region. About 200,000 Iraqi civilians died in the ensuing years due to the war. More than 4,000 American soldiers lost their lives in the war. 

One lesson of the Iraq war is that a big lie can work. Liz Cheney, who was deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs during this stretch, supported the war—and has defended it ever since. (She co-wrote a 2015 book with her dad on US foreign policy.) She even insisted that one of the main lies of the Bush-Cheney fraudulent case for war—that there had been a significant connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq—was true. (She also hawkishly defended a sordid chapter of that sordid war: torture, saying it was “libelous” to call waterboarding “torture.”)

The Cheney clan's connections to Big Lies, however, do not end with Iraq. Writes Corn:

There was another odious lie that Liz Cheney also defended—or played footsie with: the racist conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Asked about birtherism in 2009, she replied, “I think the Democrats have got more crazies than the Republicans do. But setting that aside, one of the reasons you see people so concerned about this, I think this issue is, people are uncomfortable with having for the first time ever, I think, a president who seems so reluctant to defend the nation overseas.” Without endorsing the conspiratorial and disproven details of this nutty notion, Cheney was providing moral support to its adherents. (Trump’s championship of this lie helped turn him into a right-wing hero and set up the foundation for his 2016 presidential bid.) 

It is a good thing that a hardcore conservative like Liz Cheney has joined the opposition to the Trumpian authoritarianism that has fully infected one of the nation’s two major political parties. Most of the GOP base is beyond persuasion. A recent poll showed that 70 percent of Republicans believe Biden did not win the election legitimately. The denialists lost in the swamps of Foxlandia won’t be swayed by a Liz Cheney op-ed. But for conservative Americans who give a damn about Trump’s war on reality and the Constitution—unfortunately, a minority—Cheney’s current stance could boost their spirits and spine. And the fight to protect American democracy needs as many enlistees as can be mustered, on the left, in the middle, and on the right. 

Still, Liz Cheney deserves hardly a cheer, for it ought to be remembered that Trump is pushing his Big Lie in the wake of other big lies—and that Cheney, her father, and so many other Republicans not so long ago did much to blaze the path for the dangerous political villainy she now decries.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Birmingham police officer calls Joe Biden and Democrats "enemies of the United States" and suggests they might have to be forcefully removed from power

Birmingham Police

An Alabama police officer has been placed on administrative duty after posting online that President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party are "enemies of the United States" and might have to be removed from power by force. Why would a Birmingham cop think the public cares about his opinions on such issues -- and why would he think his comments were appropriate in a majority black city with a lot of Democratic voters? We don't have answers to those questions, but we will let explain how they arose:

A Birmingham police officer has been reassigned following a social media post in which he called President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party the “enemy of the United States of America.”

The officer has not been publicly identified, and department spokesman Sgt. Rod Mauldin said he is on administrative duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

According to CBS 42, the officer wrote: “Our nation is under siege by these socialist enemies and if we cannot soon vote them out, it will be time to fight. If we are forced to fight, much blood will be spilled on both sides. I pray we can remove them peacefully before it is too late.”

This guy's prayers involve removing Democrats from office? In a city plagued by gun violence, in a state plagued by political corruption, he can't think of anything else to pray about?

The Birmingham Police Department released the following statement:

“The Birmingham police department was recently made aware of an inflammatory social media post made by an officer on his personal Facebook page. The Birmingham Police Department’s command staff took immediate action according to BPD protocol to initiate an internal investigation. The officer has been assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of an internal investigation. This opinionated post made by this officer is not reflective of the views of the Birmingham Police Department. BPD takes these instances seriously and our goal is to assure open accountability of each officer that serves the City of Birmingham.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Derek Chauvin's murder trial reveals the truth about George Floyd's death, which was obsccured in artfully misleading press release from Minneapolis PD

Derek Chauvin

A guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd could be a sign of hope that America will get its raging police-brutality problem under control. But the trial itself, which understandably focused on Chauvin's cruelty and indifference at needlessly taking a human life, also revealed part of policing's dark underbelly that might make reform more difficult than most of us can imagine.

What is this ugly secret, which likely remains unknown to many Americans? It's simple, really: Cops lie, and they lie a lot, especially when one of their own is in trouble. This issue resonates here at Legal Schnauzer because my wife, Carol, and I have seen firsthand how brazenly cops can lie -- even when they are filling out official reports or testifying in a court of law. 

How did the "cops lie" problem manifest in the Chauvin trial? That becomes apparent when you compare early Minneapolis PD statements about the Floyd incident with sworn testimony that came out in court. You might say there is a wide gulf between the two. From a CNN report, under the headline "How Minneapolis Police first described the murder of George Floyd, and what we know now":

"Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction."

That was the headline of a Minneapolis Police press release on May 25, 2020, in the hours after an unnamed man in his 40s died. Absent from the nearly 200-word post is any mention of officers restraining him on the ground, a knee on his neck, or any sense of how long this "interaction" lasted. 
Thanks to video from a 17-year-old bystander, we now know what really happened: Former police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, by using excessive and unreasonable force when he kneeled on Floyd's neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Chauvin was convicted Tuesday on two counts of murder and a count of manslaughter in a Minnesota criminal court.
In light of his conviction, that original press release is worth revisiting to understand the ways that police statements can hide the truth with a mix of passive language, blatant omissions and mangled sense of timing.

CNN is being deferential to police with that last paragraph. The simple truth is this: Cops lie, and they lied about the Floyd case -- and they probably would have gotten away with it, except that a 17-year-old with a cell phone thought the cops' actions were wrong and had the courage to take video of them:

The link to the [press release] now redirects to the Minneapolis Police website, but its text remains accessible through the Internet Archive.
The [release] begins by saying that Minneapolis Police officers responded to a report of a "forgery in progress," and notes that the suspect "appeared to be under the influence."
"Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.

Was Floyd "suffering medical distress" because Chauvin's knee had been on his neck for more than nine minutes? We now know the answer is yes -- but the cop press release makes no mention of that tidbit.

"At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been called in to investigate this incident at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department.
"No officers were injured in the incident. Body worn cameras were on and activated during this incident."
The post was sent by John Elder, the director of the Office of Public Information under Minneapolis Police.

CNN suggests the Minneapolis press release was merely deceptive, not wholly dishonest. But our experience indicates cops can totally make stuff up -- as if pulled from some "alternate reality." (More on that in a future post.):

Everything in the police post is, technically speaking, true.
The police were responding to report of a man using a suspected counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd was under the influence of fentanyl and methamphetamine at the time, according to a toxicology report. He did physically resist officers when they tried to get him into the squad car. They were able to get him into handcuffs.
The officers did notice he appeared to be in medical distress, and they did call for an ambulance. No weapons were "used," at least in the sense that they did not shoot him or beat him with a weapon.
But taken together, the post is deeply misleading and works to obscure the officers' role in his death. 
It flips the timing of the handcuffing, hiding the fact that Floyd was in handcuffs nearly from the start of their interaction. 
It notes that he was put in handcuffs and "suffering medical distress" in the same sentence, even though they occurred about 20 minutes apart. Most importantly, it ignores what police did in between those two events.

How misleading was the PD's account? Let's count the ways:

There is no mention that police restrained him in a prone position on the ground or that Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck. It does not mention that Chauvin remained in that position for an extended period -- 9 minutes and 29 seconds. It does not mention that Floyd repeatedly said "I can't breathe" and called for his "mama" before he lost consciousness, stopped breathing and lost his pulse. It does not state that Chauvin stayed on his neck until paramedics motioned for him to get up off Floyd's limp body.
It also does not mention that former officer Thomas Lane pointed his gun at Floyd while he was in his vehicle, which can be interpreted as "using" a weapon.
We know the truth of all of this because of a remarkable amount of video showing what really happened that day.
The 17-year-old, Darnella Frazier, posted her video to Facebook, which was seen by people across the world, including the Minneapolis Police chief. Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty firefighter who was rebuffed from rendering aid to Floyd, also filmed parts of the scene from a slightly different angle. Another high school student used her friend's phone to film the incident, she testified.
A city surveillance camera from across the street showed the restraint of Floyd from a distance. A 911 dispatcher who watched the live feed of that video called her supervisor to voice her concerns about what she had seen. Other videos from inside the Cup Foods store, outside a Chinese restaurant and from a bystander in his car showed what happened prior to the fatal restraint.
Finally, three of the officers' body cameras showed their extended interactions with Floyd up close. Chauvin's camera fell underneath the squad car prior to the restraint so does not show everything, but it reveals his arrival to the scene and his attempt to defend his actions afterward.

The PD, naturally, tried to defend the content of the press release:

Elder, the police spokesman who sent out the alert, told the Los Angeles Times last year that he based the initial release on information from sergeants who work in the area and computer-aided dispatch, which did not mention the use of force. He hadn't reviewed the body-camera footage yet.
"This had literally zero intent to deceive or be dishonest or disingenuous. Had we known that this (situation) was what we saw on the video, that statement would have been completely different," Elder told the LA Times.
In response, the Minneapolis City Council voted last summer to move the Public Information Office out from the police department and under the city's control, according to CNN affiliate WCCO.
On Wednesday, George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd said it was the presence of cameras that opened doors for the "historic" verdict in the Chauvin trial.
"To me, Emmett Till, he was the first George Floyd," referring to the 14-year-old Black boy who was tortured and murdered in Mississippi in 1955. "It just wasn't any cameras around. That's the only thing that changed — the cameras, the technology. It helped open up doors because without that, my brother just would have been another person on the side of the road left to die."

Cops, meanwhile, appear to have a massive credibility problem, one that goes way beyond Minneapolis -- one with which journalists around the the country will have to wrestle. (Details in an upcoming post.)