Tuesday, September 5, 2023

What's it like to be targeted by the White, right-wing thugs -- also known as "The Cabal" -- who effectively control life, and the law, in a Red state like Alabama?

Civil-rights icon Rosa Parks

What is it like to become the target of the White, conservative political thugs who effectively run a Deep Red state like Alabama? Donald Watkins, with more than 40 years of experience as a lawyer in the state -- and, more recently, as an online investigative journalist at his DonaldWatkins.com Web site -- has found himself in the midst of multiple controversies that give him keen insight into that question.

How bad can it get in Alabama? This much is clear: Exercising freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Alabama is dangerous. In fact, veteran Montgomery attorney Thomas T. "Tommy" Gallion III says in his book, Shadow Government, Southern Style: A Saga of Political Corruption From D.C. to Dixie (2020), available from Amazon and Kindle eBooks that Alabama is run by a "Cabal."

Mrs. Schnauzer (my wife, Carol) and I have experiences similar to those directed at Watkins, and ours were driven by my reporting on matters of public interest here at Legal Schnauzer. My journalism apparently hit close enough to home that members of The Cabal designated my blog for shutdown. In the process, our health, safety,freedom, lives, jobs, house, possessions, and much more were put at risk.

If we were ruined financially, even killed -- and I think it's possible our lives still are in danger -- along with suffering severe physical and emotional trauma . . . well, that apparently was just part of the plan, from The Cabal's perspective. We're talking about people who do not care about the damage they inflict on others, all for engaging in activities that are protected under the U.S. Constitution. But Alabama's Cabal is part of what we call "The New Confederacy," and they do not operate under our nation's founding documents. They made up their own set of rules, which are applied for their benefit. The chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court even has argued that the court upon which he sits is not bound by rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court. We're not joking about this. "Justice" in Alabama really is that warped, and I'm not aware of anyone on the right wing who bats an eye about it. 

A leading proponent of "New Confederacy" thinking was the late Eugene "Bull" Connor, the infamous and racist public safety  commissioner of Birmingham, who is best known for siccing police dogs on peaceful protesters during the civil-rights era.  

We can provide plenty of details about what it's like to get in the cross hairs of the Alabama Cabal, and Tommy Gallion has covered them extensively in his book. (See here, here, here, here, and here.) But that is a story for another day, and we will have a post on our experiences coming shortly, But for now, let's examine the first-person account of Donald Watkins, who knows far more than most what it's like to get caught in the eye of a hurricane created by Alabama's Cabal. Under the title "Our Justice Systems Have Always Been Weaponized Against Agents of Change," Watkins writes:

On March 18, 2023, The Tuscaloosa News published an article titled, “Disgraced Lawyer Donald Watkins Blogs from Prison.” The article was published seven months AFTER the publication of a widely-read article about my release from a federal prison camp near El Paso, Texas, on August 25, 2022.

In 2018, I had been indicted and prosecuted by Birmingham, Alabama-based federal prosecutors for business-related conduct that unbiased federal prosecutors in Newark, New Jersey, thoroughly reviewed two years earlier and concluded was not criminal. I was “railroaded” in a Birmingham federal court and imprisoned for three years.

I was in and out of the federal prison system before my appeals had been exhausted.

The entire ordeal was an Alabama-led effort to undermine, discredit, and destroy me. Over a four-decade period, my landmark civil-rights cases had profoundly changed the political, educational, economic, and social landscape of Alabama. I aggressively fought all forms of racial discrimination in a state that prided itself on "massive resistance" to equal rights for its Black citizens.

I was deemed a "troublemaker" who disturbed the Birmingham business community's "good relations with the colored community." I had also been asked to leave Birmingham on more than one occasion.

After I left public office as a Montgomery city council member in 1983, Emory Folmar, the city's arch-conservative Republican mayor and then-Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, publicly proclaimed that my departure from the council was one of the greatest blessings since the Yankee troops went home in 1870.

Was it a coincidence that the Tuscaloosa News would trash Watkins' reputation? Not at all, Watkins writes:

The Tuscaloosa News is the same Alabama newspaper that ran an attack ad against Megan Rondini, an innocent University of Alabama honors student who identified a local Tuscaloosa playboy as her rapist in a 2015 police report. With its publication of this ad, The Tuscaloosa News openly platformed an act of “victim shaming” that maliciously targeted Megan Rondini in July 2017 (after her death).

Rondini committed suicide after Tuscaloosa County law enforcement officials refused to pursue criminal justice in her rape case solely because the designated offender/suspect came from a wealthy Tuscaloosa family that contributed mega bucks to the Alabama Crimson Tide football program.

From the moment she filed her rape report, the criminal-justice system in Tuscaloosa County became weaponized against Megan Rondini. After all, she had the audacity to timely report her rape and she demanded that her alleged well-known rapist be prosecuted.

In 2017, I was the only journalist in the state who wrote and published in-depth articles about Megan Rondini’s rape case. Out of fear that they would lose advertising dollars from corporate entities and the political bodies run by the Alabama’s rich, White, male oligarchs, the state’s mainstream press turned a blind eye to Megan Rondini’s rape case.

Watkins calls Tuscaloosa County, home to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and its GOAT (Greatest of All Time) football coach Nick Saban a "Hostile Venue for Truth Seekers and the Fair Administration of Justice." How hostile can it get? Consider this: The name of former U.S. Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) popped up in a Tuscaloosa County divorce case involving a GOP political operative with extensive ties to Strange. In no time, the divorce-case file was sealed. When, and under what grounds, was the file sealed? Well, that's hard to know with the file sealed, but we have yet to see any grounds involving an adult that would lawfully merit sealing. The case did involve a very young child at the time and clearly involved issues related to his custody -- and possibly his parentage. Records that we've seen indicate the case was filed, and sealed, roughly in 2010. Some 13 years later, the case apparently remains sealed. Is the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse keeping secrets for Luther Strange and someone close to him? That appears to be the case, and Donald Watkins says that would be fitting:

Tuscaloosa is the same county where Allen May, a newly appointed White Circuit Court judge, ruled against me (without a trial) in a so-called “defamation case” that was based upon five investigative articles I wrote and published about Megan Rondini’s rape case.

Judge May, who was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Robert Bentley, applied a simple “negligence” standard to justify his adverse ruling, and not the more rigorous “reckless disregard of the truth” standard mandated in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) for defamation cases involving journalists.

Robert Bentley, a Tuscaloosa native, was forced to resign as Alabama’s governor in 2017 after I exposed his long-running illicit sex affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a married senior advisor, in my “Forbidden Love” and “Executive Betrayal” series of investigative reports. Bentley also pled guilty to ethics charges arising from his “sex-for-power” scandal.

May, by the way, has documented ties to Paul Bryant Jr., the "Mr. Money Bags" behind the Crimson Tide football program and a man with a sketchy business history that includes documented ties to wire fraud, via his Alabama Reassurance firm

Judge May completely disregarded my asserted legal position that truth is an absolute defense to a claim of defamation. A subsequent lawsuit between two business partners in an Alabama-based public relations firm confirmed that the plaintiffs in the defamation case had, in fact, thrust themselves into the Megan Rondini rape controversy, as I had reported in the articles in question.

The all-white Alabama Supreme Court (in a state that is 26% black), led by Confederate flag-waving Chief Justice Tom Parker, unanimously and summarily affirmed the ruling of the Tuscaloosa County judge.

Today, Chief Justice Tom Parker is the drum major for former Alabama governor George Wallace’s old doctrine of “interposition and nullification.” Parker has repeatedly proclaimed in writing that U.S. Supreme Court cases DO NOT bind the Alabama Supreme Court.

Tom Parker’s stated judicial views on this subject faithfully and fully embrace Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor’s 1958 infamous declaration: “Damn the law. Down here, we make our own law.

As for journalism, it does not have a proud history in Alabama. Writes Watkins:

Alabama has been the home of co-opted and compromised journalists since the Mobile Press Register, Montgomery Advertiser, Tuscaloosa News, Birmingham News, and Huntsville Times volunteered to participate in the FBI’s COINTELPRO program to undermine, discredit, and destroy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and thousands of black civil rights activists around the country, beginning in August 1958.

Journalists affiliated with these Alabama media groups actively facilitated the FBI in its attempt to: (a) deny Dr. King and Rosa Parks “respectability” within the Black community, (b) prevent the long-term growth of the civil-rights movement, especially among youth, (c) block free speech and access to the media for civil-rights leaders, and (d) prevent the rise of a “messiah” who could unify and electrify the civil-rights movement.

These journalists faithfully adhered to COINTELPRO’s original goals. As a result, their media organizations have been unrelenting in their efforts to undermine, discredit and destroy strong and effective Black leadership in the state.

Whenever these journalists praise a Black civic or political leader today, it is usually someone who has been thoroughly deconstructed and properly “niggerized.” For those who do not know what “niggerization” means, it is the systematic act of dehumanizing a person or an entire race of people to render him/her/them fearful.

The institutions and people who administer the “niggerization” program in Alabama today have never lifted a finger to help Black people or other Americans of color share in this nation’s upward mobility, economic prosperity, political advancement, or social justice.

How have people of color, and those who support fundamental human rights for all, survived in Alabama? With difficulty appears to be the answer, writes Watkins:

My international business partners occasionally remind me that every negative article about me on the Internet emanates from sources in Alabama. Outside of the state, I have a totally different and very positive public profile.

Because of my long and effective record of protecting and advancing civil rights in Alabama, leading members of the state’s ultra-conservative political establishment, law enforcement community, and captive members of the mainstream media have gone to great lengths to portray me in the most negative light possible on various Internet platforms.

This concerted effort, which is digitally platformed by the state’s mainstream news media, is a continuation of Alabama's dutiful role in the FBI’s original COINTELPRO program.

The courageous work of a growing number of independent online journalists in Alabama, coupled with articles published on my constellation of Internet platforms, has effectively neutralized the adverse effects of Alabama-generated COINTELPRO negativity in my case.

Unfortunately, other similarly situated Black leaders in the Alabama and around the nation have not been so lucky.

Are these issues limited to Alabama and the South? No, says Watkins, and Donald Trump's MAGA movement is proof of that:

Donald Trump’s MAGA supporters are right about one thing – the FBI has a long and ugly track record of weaponizing Department of Justice resources against emerging leaders who challenged and changed the established social, economic, and political order.

However, from January 2017 to January 2021, Donald Trump headed the government that used the Department of Justice as a weapon against those who were disliked by his administration.

Listed below are the names of some well-known Black leaders who were targeted by the federal law-enforcement establishment for neutralization and destruction, commencing in 1916. These accomplished individuals led highly successful movements that challenged the status quo in American life:

1. Callie House (1916)

2. Marcus Garvey (1922)

3. Billie Holiday (1947)

4. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1958)

5. Richard Arrington, Jr. (1988)

6. U.W. Clemon (1996)

7. Nathan Chapman (2003)

My main issue with Donald Trump and his MAGA supporters on the question of the weaponization of the Department of Justice is simple: Where were you when the Department of Justice’s massive arsenal of law-enforcement weapons was turned on Black civil rights activists and those Whites of interracial goodwill who supported us?

Nobody within the MAGA movement has answered this question. I think we know why.


Anonymous said...

Glad to see an article or two here or there that weaves opinion in of the local cabal of crooks in this state. So much of the focus of this website lately has seemed to cover the national news cycle. Good work!

I would like to mention that when it comes to their shenanigans they are “equal opportunity” and by that I mean that sometimes race doesn’t matter. Yes they use race and racially charged situations to divide us, keep us fighting and distracting everyone from what should be obvious, which is their control over all of us and the resulting economic deprivation which keeps minorities as well as poor whites at the low rung of the economic ladder, all while they are ripping us off through their good old boy court system designed to enrich themselves and outright theft and plunder of public funds which are intended to be for the benefit of the people of this state.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:32 --

Thanks for a thoughtful comment. A "good old boy" court system is exactly what Alabama has -- at both the state and federal levels -- and it hurts the state and its residents far more than many people know. A personal experience with the court system will make the scales fall from your eyes.