This marks the day Americans celebrate the progress we have made on matters of race. It also, however, is the day a breaking story in Alabama reveals the disgraceful lengths the state's corporate power structure -- which is predominantly white, of course -- will go to destroy a prominent black attorney and businessman.
The story, which comes to us via the banbalch.com blog and the CDLU public charity and advocacy group, also shows that elements in our "justice system," which also is mostly white, hold little regard for constitutional concepts such as "due process" and "equal protection under law," especially as they should have applied to the 2018-19 trial of Donald Watkins.
In essence, this is a story about corporate power brokers and compromised justice officials working behind the scenes to ensure that the Watkins criminal trial of would be a sham proceeding. And that suggests, sadly, that America's progress on race still has a long way to go. It's another disgusting chapter for our blog, which since 2007 has written extensively about the rot that has settled in on our justice system at all levels -- state, federal; trial and appellate.
K.B. Forbes, CEO of the CDLU, shines a white-hot light on recently obtained documents that reveal the ugliness behind the Watkins case. In a post titled "Sealed Documents Show Southern Company’s Law Enforcement Stooges Silenced Critics and Media," Forbes writes:
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we expose the appalling lengths to which Southern Company stooges went to go after and destroy an African American leader and his supporters.
Southern Company’s criminal enterprise not only greased and corrupted the judicial branch in Alabama to protect their wholly owned subsidiaries, but also corrupted the executive branch and law enforcement to silence critics and the media.
From the Newsome Conspiracy Case to the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal, obstruction of justice not only occurred in the court system, but some acts were sadly done by law enforcement officials.
The CDLU has anonymously received a bombshell: a sealed court document from the crimimal case against African American businessman and attorney Donald V. Watkins.
And the document is utterly devastating and demonstrates that the office of disgraced and now ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town was indeed in Southern Company/Alabama Power’s pocket.
Town, a Donald Trump nominee, was confirmed as U.S. Attorney in August of 2017. It did not take him long to target Watkins, on matters that seemingly had already been put to bed, writes Forbes:
In October 2017, Town’s office opened a new federal criminal investigation into the same business transactions between Watkins and a handful of investors in his waste-to-energy business that had been probed by federal prosecutors in New Jersey from July 2015 to February 2016. These prosecutors cleared Watkins on all allegations of wrongdoing.
The move came at the same month as Southern Company’s $2-million-a-year consultant “Sloppy Joe” Perkins hand-wrote a detailed outline of an orchestrated smear campaign against Watkins.
[Sloppy Joe’s secret, hand-written notes from October of 2017 were published four years later in September of 2021 causing a firestorm.]
Perkins’ notes, at page 3, specifically referenced his knowledge of “federal subpoenas” involving Watkins. At the time, the only federal subpoenas involving Watkins were those issued by Town’s newly empaneled grand jury.
This is from Watkins' 2021 post about Perkins hand-written notes:
Perkins' notes called for Atlanta Attorney Mario Williams to be investigated after Williams successfully convinced top-notch New Jersey-based federal prosecutors in January 2016 to end their six-month grand jury proceedings into various business transactions between former New York Jets football player Bryan Thomas and me (and a handful of other professional athletes who were my personal friends and business associates). The grand jury review concluded that the business transactions in question complied with all federal laws. In his notes, Perkins described his planned outreach to these athletes. In October 2017, Birmingham federal prosecutor Lloyd Peeples, a homegrown bigot from Dothan, Alabama, commenced a new federal investigation into the same business transactions that were probed and cleared by the New Jersey federal prosecutors. Perkins specifically referenced the "federal subpoenas" in his notes. Unlike the polished career federal prosecutors in New Jersey, Peeples' grand jury leaked enough evidence to fill a water reservoir. In his notes, Perkins did not explain who leaked him information regarding "federal subpoenas."
Forbes provides insight on how all of this played out in the murky waters that run through the Hugo Black Courthouse in the Northern District of Alabama (Birmingham):
Watkins did not become aware of any federal grand jury proceedings or subpoenas issued by Town until February of 2018.
Why would Sloppy Joe know about subpoenas coming out of the secret proceedings of a federal grand jury?
Why, one would ask, was Sloppy Joe in the know?
We believe Southern Company’s criminal enterprise took immediate action against Watkins after he published critical stories about Perkins and his firm Matrix in September of 2017.
Watkins accused Perkins of allegedly targeting the family of a rape victim, Meagan Rondini, who committed suicide after law enforcement and others allegedly dismissed or ignored her accusations against the son of a prominent family in Alabama.
Eventually, Watkins was indicted.
As for the CDLU's newly obtained documents, they show Jay Town's disregard for fundamental rights goes beyond due process and and equal protection; it also goes to matters such as free speech and privacy. Writes Forbes:
The sealed documents that we received are alarming to First Amendment rights and privacy.
During the height of the criminal trial, Jay Town’s office filed a sealed subpoena demanding to know who was making counter arguments and critical comments about the prosecution and trial on the AL.com website comments area.
TheTruthHurts48 burned up Town and his team.Ripping up First Amendment rights like mobsters wanting to break one’s legs, Town’s office filed the subpoena on February 25, 2019. Three days later, Alabama Media Group, owners of AL.com, filed a motion to quash. The issue, according to court records, was resolved shortly thereafter but details are unknown.
Because of guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of the press rights, U.S. Department of Justice guidelines are clear that there are mandatory consultation requirements and Jay Town and his office should have obtained authorization at least 30 days before issuing a subpoena to a media outlet like Alabama Media Group.
We doubt Town’s office did. Town was too busy sipping cocktails with Alabama Power CEO Mark A. Crosswhite, who resigned in disgrace this past November.
How did the recently obtained documents come light? Forbes provides insight -- and he does not intend to let the material just sit in a desk:
We received the anonymously sent, sealed court documents last spring. As whistleblowers, we have forwarded the documents to the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Recently we learned who TheTruthHurts48 is, and the person told us that they attended the Watkins trial everyday and believe the trial was an absolute miscarriage of justice.
TheTruthHurts48, who works remotely, used an IP address and VPN associated with their employer. After the trial, the person was unexpectedly fired by their employer for no reason. They believe Jay Town caused the abrupt termination.
Exactly one year after Jay Town’s office filed that subpoena, on February 25, 2020, Alabama Media Group published an “End of an Era” story and announced, “Beginning Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 at 5 a.m. CST, we’ll eliminate website comments…”
18 USC. The influence peddling between this case and NB. The IG should step up.
Just to clarify, is "NB" the "North Birmingham" case? If so, you are talking about influence peddling between the Watkins case and the North Birmingham case? How might that happen? What form might it take?
Must admit that influence peddling is a fairly new term to me. Did a little research, and influence peddling appears to be a close associate of bribery.
I looked up 18 U.S.C. Sec. 201, which is titled "Bribery of public officials and witnesses. This appears to be the gist of the offense:
(1) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or entity, with intent—
(A) to influence any official act; or
(B) to influence such public official or person who has been selected to be a public official to commit or aid in committing, or collude in, or allow, any fraud, or make opportunity for the commission of any fraud, on the United States; or
(C) to induce such public official or such person who has been selected to be a public official to do or omit to do any act in violation of the lawful duty of such official or person;
(2) being a public official or person selected to be a public official, directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for:
(A) being influenced in the performance of any official act;
(B) being influenced to commit or aid in committing, or to collude in, or allow, any fraud, or make opportunity for the commission of any fraud, on the United States; or
(C) being induced to do or omit to do any act in violation of the official duty of such official or person . . .;
(3) directly or indirectly, demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally for or because of the testimony under oath or affirmation given or to be given by such person as a witness upon any such trial, hearing, or other proceeding, or for or because of such person’s absence therefrom; shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both.
That gets into a lot of legalese, but I thought it would give a general idea of the offense. You can read the entire section here . . .
I'm just doing some guesswork here: In the scenario you note involving Watkins and North Birmingham cases, the public official likely is Jay Town? The entity offering something of value to a public official probably would be Alabama Power/Southern Company, perhaps through Matrix?
Could former judge Abdul Kallon also be in this picture somehow?
Here is a comment today from Donald Watkins at his Facebook page:
Jay Town was never qualified to serve as U.S. Attorney. He was an little-known political hack who got the job by French-kissing Richard Shelby's ass. The truth about Town's misconduct in my criminal case is finally coming to light. There is much more shocking news to come regarding Jay Town, Lloyd Peeples, Alabama Power Company, Mark Crosswhite, Joe Perkins, Matrix, LLC, former federal judge Abdul Kallon, the Alabama Media Group, and a host of other collaborators. The information about what happened in my case, and why, is now in the hands of national news organizations. Stay tuned for their upcoming articles!
Sources tell me that at least one national/international news outlet is deep into an investigation on the Alabama Power/Southern Company/Matrix story. Donald Watkins apparently is hearing the same thing. Another comment from his Facebook page:
I expect Lloyd Peeples to resign and face the consequences of his actions. Based upon what I learned today, there is much more to this story. Several major news organizations are on top of the growing scandal involving Alabama Power Company, the Southern Company, and their law enforcement cronies in Birmingham. These news organizations know the complete story of what happened here, and why.
Another comment today from Donald Watkins at Facebook:
It was just a matter of time before the role played by the Southern Company, its federal law enforcement cronies in Birmingham, Alabama, and the AL.com media group in the bogus criminal case against my son and me would be exposed by independent media sources. That day has come. The entities and individuals who allowed themselves to be used in an unlawful scheme to railroad us in Birmingham's federal criminal justice system are now being outed. The first article to expose this unlawful scheme is presented below. Additional articles from multiple media organizations are forthcoming. As William Cullen Bryant once said, "truth crushed to earth shall rise again."
Sealed Documents Show Southern Company’s Law Enforcement Stooges Silenced Critics and Media
National media finally getting on the story. 6 levels deep in every direction. Should really be something when it hits.
For some reason, I could not get the following comment into my comments folder for normal processing. It's from James Layne, and I'm running it in this format. It includes a link to a Donald Wtkins post that is well worth the time to read . . .
5:29 PM (1 hour ago)
Tammany Hall got nothing on the corruption in Alabama….
Everyone in Alabama should read the Donald Watkins, which runs under this telling headline:
Alabama Power’s Role in Co-opting AL.com
Powerful stuff, and here is a sample:
In December of 2016, [John] Archibald published a “Drive-By Character Assassination” article that revived and recycled decades-old allegations that I engaged in public corruption activities while serving as Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington’s special counsel in the early 1990s.
Birmingham contractor Chris Woods reportedly made these allegations while running against Arrington for Mayor in 1995. Woods recanted and retracted these allegations, orally and in writing, on multiple occasions. Yet, Archibald resurrected them again in his 2016 article.
After I published a rebuttal article that chronicled my long and well-documented record of anti-public corruption initiatives, Archibald came on my Facebook page and wrote: “I did not intend to imply that you did wrong, Mr. Watkins. What was relevant was Mr. Woods' history of making similar allegations. I should have pointed out that nothing came of those claims. I took it for a given, and for that I apologize.”
Archibald did not issue this apology on his AL.com media platform so that his “click bait” readers could see that he made a mistake and apologized for it. Yet, I forgave Archibald and moved on.
Then, Watkins has this re: Archibald:
Next, I watched John Archibald take my exclusive series of investigative reports about the secret love affair between Governor Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason titled “Forbidden Love” and “Executive Betrayal” (which were published in September and October of 2015) and win a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2018 with this copyrighted material.
Archibald became aware of Bentley's sex scandal when I did in 2015. Yet, he refused to write about it until it was safe to do so six months later. Archibald simply repackaged my articles and took credit for them on national TV.
The Bentley item hits close to home because Watkins broke and reported on that story for (I believe, if my math is correct) seven months before the mainstream press touched it. Neither of us got credit for breaking it on Rachel Maddow's Show, and we both are still waiting for our Pulitzer's.
Watkins and I reported on the Bentley & Mason affair/scandal at considerable risk. It has been widely reported -- with some articles based on court documents -- that Bentley sought to unlawfully use state and federal criminal databases to have Watkins and me investigation. Here are some posts on that subject:
(1) Donald Watkins says "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley did, in fact, order investigations of Web-based journalists who broke stories on Rebekah Caldwell Mason scandal
(2) Spencer Collier makes clear in deposition that the idea of using government resources against Donald Watkins and me originated with "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley
(3) "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley admits in deposition that he talked with law enforcement about investigating me and Donald Watkins for our reporting on scandal
Here is more on the Watkins/Schauzer reporting of the Gov. Robert Bentley/Rebekah Mason scandal:
(4) Deposition in Spencer Collier's lawsuit against Robert Bentley shows "Luv Guv" asked staffers to use criminal databases to dig up dirt on me, in retaliation for reporting on his affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason
(5) Donald Watkins: Spencer Collier settled lawsuit for $700,000, but others proceeded with "Luv Guv" Bentley's dirty work when Collier refused to do it
As for John Archibald and his colleagues at al.com, what were they doing during the seven months Donald Watkins and I were breaking the Bently/Mason story? For one, they were attacking me:
Are jealousy and embarrassment the reasons Alabama's mainstream press is seven months late on the first anniversary of the "Luv Guv Scandal"?
Reporters and editors at al.com probably would say, "Well, the story didn't really break until text messages and a recording surfaced of Bentley and Mason engaging in dirty talk on the telephone." But the texts and recordings showed that Bentley and Mason had engaged in a physical affair -- and we had reported that months earlier.
The words of al.com's own reporters -- in this case, John Archibald -- show the story did not begin with recordings. From Archibald's "Year of Living Scandalously" story:
In the span of 24 hours [Bentley's] transformation from family values grandpa to lecherous Luv Guv was under way. Even then it was impossible to foresee what a seismic year would follow.
At times the whole nation sat back and laughed as Alabama covered its face in sheer humiliation.
Earth to Archibald: The transformation of Robert Bentley, in journalistic terms, began seven months earlier than you want to admit -- and the "seismic" year already was well under way before your "news organization" took serious notice.
In fact, Archibald and colleague Chuck Dean had spent part of those seven months blasting me and my reporting. Archibald claimed my reporting "offered . . . 'sources.' Not proof or fact or anything more than smoke."
Dean, undoubtedly pissed that I had outed him as a customer of the the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, offered this critique: "Despite no claim of infidelity in the divorce papers, the rumor traveled across platforms such as talk radio, Facebook, Twitter and in some blogs of dubious credibility purporting the unsubstantial rumor as fact." (Can someone define an "unsubstantial" rumor? I guess that is in contrast to a "substantial" rumor?)
As for Robert Bentley, his nose for scandal goes beyond the fetching Ms. Mason. In fact, the "Luv Guv" has been a somewhat overlooked character in the Alabama Power/Southern Company/Balch/Matrix/Drummond scandal.
First, it's established that Bentley was among the Alabama politicos staunchly opposing EPA action in North Birmingham . . .
Robert Bentley and Jabo Waggoner
Drummond was a major political benefactor of former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned in April amid an embarrassing sex scandal. Bentley’s administration fiercely battled the EPA’s Superfund push in North Birmingham, yet he was hardly alone. Among the state officials who assisted Drummond and Balch was one of the longest-serving members of the state Legislature, Republican Sen. J.T. “Jabo” Waggoner, who in 2015 successfully introduced a resolution opposing the EPA actions at the 35th Avenue Superfund site. According to the Justice Department, the measure was in fact authored by Balch’s Joel Gilbert.
Here's more . . .
Drummond was a major political benefactor of former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned in April amid an embarrassing sex scandal. Bentley’s administration fiercely battled the EPA’s Superfund push in North Birmingham, yet he was hardly alone.
How else is Bentley tied to the Alabama Power/Balch sleazepit? Here are some examples:
1. Public records show that the late William D. "Bo" Lineberry, who was a Balch & Bingham lawyer, incorporated the Governor Bentley inaugural Foundation in 2014. Lineberry committed suicide in April 2022. Former Alabama Power CEO was among the directors for the Bentley Foundation.
2. Alabama Power's R.B. Walker served on the board of ACEGOV. What was that?
What is the most likely source of criminal exposure for Mason and Bentley? Our sources say it is the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, also known as ACEGOV, a nonprofit organization with ties to three of the most powerful entities in the state--Alabama Power, the University of Alabama System, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who have tried to arrange a monopoly on state gaming in exchange for assistance with the state budget crisis.
Where does ACEGOV get its money? The council is not terribly forthcoming with that information, but in a general sense, the funds reportedly come from Bentley's leftover campaign resources. More specifically, our sources say, the money comes mostly from Alabama Power and the Poarch Creeks--and a significant amount of it has been funneled to Governor Bentley's mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
ACEGOV became known as Bentley's "Girlfriend Fund," and it proved to be a touchy subject in litigation . . .
Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is being pushed in the Spencer Collier lawsuit for information about donors to an alleged "Girlfriend Fund." Bentley's taxpayer-funded legal team, however, filed a response last week that suggests a continuing effort to stonewall regarding the fund, which reportedly served multiple purposes -- including possible payoffs to members of the media for positive coverage -- according to a report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR).
The notion of payoffs for positive coverage of Bentley and his relationship with senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason might be the flip side to reports that the administration used state resources to conduct retaliatory investigations of Donald Watkins and yours truly -- the two online journalists who reported on the Bentley-Mason story for roughly seven months before the mainstream media (MSM) took serious notice. . . .
Officially, the fund in question is called ACEGOV, but insiders have come to know it as the "Girlfriend Fund." Reports [Bill] Britt:
Known in political circles as the "Girlfriend Fund,” because it paid money to Bentley’s alleged girlfriend, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, ACEGOV is a 501(c)(4) set-up in Feb. 2015, by Bentley’s then-General Counsel Cooper Shattuck to promote Bentley’s political agenda.
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