|Stephanie Flowers Patel |
The adult daughter of Alabama political columnist Steve Flowers, who has called for Donald Watkins to be jailed for his aggressive reporting on the Southern Company/Alabama Power scandal, recently has been arrested and charged in two cases of felony drug possession, plus one charge of insurance fraud. In all three instances, Stephanie Flowers Patel managed to escape a sentence that involved incarceration, according to a report at DonaldWatkins.com. Writes Watkins, a longtime Alabama attorney, under the headline "How Steve Flowers’ Daughter Avoided Prison in Felony Drug, Fraud Cases":
Stephanie Flowers Patel is the 40-year-old daughter of Internet blogger and political columnist Steve Flowers. She had a recent experience in Alabama's criminal-justice system that highlights a very troubling aspect of the system.
On March 15, 2023, Steve Flowers used his website to viciously attack me for posting news articles about Matrix owner Joe Perkins, Alabama Power Company, the Southern Company, former U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), and those who worked in concert with them to perpetuate a multistage, long-running, racketeering enterprise and massive accounting fraud scheme at the Southern Company and its affiliates.
My articles apparently miffed Flowers. In his March 15, 2023, Op-ed article, Flowers called me a “disgraced, fraudulent criminal conman” who is "brazen," "arrogant," "non-repentant," and a "threat to society." The first time I saw this combination of words in print to describe a black man was when the FBI used them in an early 1960s internal memo to describe my Sunday school teacher, church pastor, and BTU instructor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Flowers also demanded that I be jailed simply for writing and publishing news articles that are critical of the political oligarchs who run Alabama.
Flowers concluded his article by reminding his readers that his "forefathers" did not confer First Amendment rights on people of my ancestry. In fact, Flowers' forefathers conferred absolutely NO rights of any kind on blacks, whether enslaved or freed.
How did Flowers come to attack Watkins so viciously for exercising his First Amendment rights, the same rights Flowers uses in publishing his newspaper column? The answer to that question, Watkins states, can be traced to Joe Perkins, founder and owner of the Montgomery-based Matrix LLC "dirty tricks" consulting firm:
Flowers was called into action as a media "hit man" by his close friend and ally, Joe Perkins -- the man who is at the epicenter of the Southern Company’s pervasive racketeering enterprise and its resulting criminal investigations.
In the process of condemning me and urging my imprisonment, Steve Flowers failed to mention Stephanie’s recent criminal cases. I want to use Stephanie’s cases for the sole purpose of spotlighting a growing problem within Alabama’s criminal-justice system -- the disparate treatment of similarly-situated accused persons.
We have no evidence that Steve Flowers pulled strings to help his daughter escape a legal jam. But it seems likely that Stephanie Flowers Patel's ties to the worlds of politics and journalism did not hurt her case. Writes Watkins:
On June 8, 2019, Stephanie Flowers Patel was arrested and charged with two felony cases of possession of illegal drugs. The cases were docketed in the Jefferson County, Alabama District Court (Bessemer Division) as State of Alabama v. Patel Stephanie Flowers, Case Nos. DC-2019-002050 and DC-2019-002051.
On January 28, 2020, Stephanie was arrested, again, and charged with one felony count of insurance fraud. The case was docketed in the Jefferson County, Alabama Circuit Court (Bessemer Division) as State of Alabama v. Patel Stephanie Flowers, Case No. CC-2020-000024.
On March 11, 2020, Stephanie was sentenced to a pretrial diversion program on the drug charges in Case Nos. DC-2019-002050 and DC-2019-002051. This judicial action allowed her to avoid imprisonment. On July 14, 2020, Stephanie's drug cases were dismissed.
On October 6, 2020, Stephanie entered a plea to the district attorney's Information (or Complaint) for the insurance-fraud case. The Court accepted her plea deal. On October 27, 2020, Stephanie was sentenced to pretrial diversion on the fraud charge. Once again, Stephanie escaped imprisonment.
Steve Flowers, himself, was the beneficiary of a generous pretrial diversion program. He entered the program after his arrest in 2007 on domestic-violence and criminal-mischief charges in Florida, even though his case involved allegations of violent behavior. After completing the program, Flowers’ criminal charges were dismissed.
Would the outcomes in the Stephanie Flowers Patel matters have been different for a defendant without connections? Watkins, it seems, suspects the answer is yes:
White first-time, non-violent offenders like Stephanie Flowers Patel are routinely admitted into pretrial diversion programs, while black first-time, non-violent offenders from low income socioeconomic backgrounds with similar charges are often denied admission to these programs.
Interestingly, when actor Jussie Smollett, who is black, was admitted in 2019 into a pretrial diversion program in Chicago, it created a firestorm of controversy from the privileged white community that routinely benefits from these programs. Smollett was charged with filing a false police report, a low-level Class 4 felony.
Stephanie Flowers was indicted on felony fraud and drug charges. There was no public outcry when she was admitted to Jefferson County’s pretrial diversion program in all three cases. After all, Stephanie is Steve Flowers' daughter, and he is "Alabama’s leading political columnist" whose "weekly column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers."
Hopefully, Steve Flowers did not direct any of his fury at Stephanie for the fraudulent conduct alleged in her indictment and criminal complaints. Understandably, Flowers did not publicly condemn Stephanie’s alleged possession of drugs while he was scolding other similarly situated drug offenders in his Op-ed articles.
What is more, Steve Flowers has never railed against the privileges afforded to the children of powerful white politicians in Alabama who have gained access to pretrial diversion and “First Chance” programs up to nine times for a single defendant in serial drug-related cases.
This glaring disparate treatment in Alabama's criminal-justice system must come to an end. Every accused person should be treated the same and should be afforded the same opportunity for pretrial diversion.