Thursday, November 30, 2023

Investigation: Bryan Dawson, a hardened criminal with a taste for old-time religion, condemned Bubba Copeland to death as a form of "church discipline"

Bryan Dawson (left) as an inmate; (right) as a CEO


 The death of small-town Alabama mayor Fred "Bubba" Copeland was a form of "church discipline" for his activities as a cross dresser and writer of erotic fiction, while he also served as pastor at a Baptist church, according to a report at A longtime Alabama attorney who has become a leading voice in online investigative journalism, Watkins has conducted extensive research across five  states and two countries, concluding that Kenneth Bryan Dawson, CEO and publisher of the right-wing 1819 News site, is the central character in Copeland's death. 

How does a media figure come to play a lead role in the suicide of a man, who by pretty much all accounts, was a respected and beloved figure in his east Alabama community? That happened, Watkins reports, because Dawson was more than just a media figure. He had an extensive criminal history before winding up in Alabama -- and the details behind that move still are not fully clear. But Watkins' research indicates Dawson received a huge reduction in his original Colorado sentence, and that likely required him to become an informant for operatives with the federal government. In fact, Watkins writes, a federal law-enforcement source provided the tip that prompted 1819 News to rapidly publish the series of stories about Bubba Copeland's cross-dressing and erotic-fiction habits. The embarrassment of being outed in such a public fashion apparently drove Copeland to kill himself with a gun.

Here is another peculiar factor in this story: Bryan Dawson is not aligned with a typical media company -- and he has no discernible experience or training in journalism or a related field. 1819 News came to life under the umbrella of the Alabama Policy Institute (API), a right-wing think tank that was founded by current U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) The affiliation with API helped Copeland gain entry to Alabama's conservative political and religious communities. He even became a speaker at churches, apparently taking a fiery, Old-Testament view of the Bible.

Under the headline "A Radicalized, Demonic Kenneth Bryan Dawson Condemned Fred “Bubba” Copeland to Death by Suicide," Watkins writes:

After an extensive journalistic investigation that examined voluminous public records and spanned five states, this is what I believe happened in Mayor Fred “Bubba” Copeland’s homicide case, and why:

Nine days before he gave final approval to 1819 News’ November 1, 2023, “hit job” on Bubba Copeland, Kenneth Bryan Dawson gave a fiery sermon at the Reformation Baptist Church in Wetumpka, Alabama, in which he railed against ministers who abuse their authority within the church by engaging in “ministerial covetousness, sensuality, and imperiousness.

In Dawson's view, nothing brought a greater reproach to religion than this kind of ministerial abuse of power.  Dawson saw this ministerial conduct as “rubbish and refuse” that must be disposed of.

The “rod of correction” demands that this kind of ministerial abuse of power within the church be punishable by death because it offends God, said Kenneth Bryan Dawson.  

Church discipline,” as Dawson calls it, must be administered in front of everybody to instill the fear of God in all men, women, and children.  The refusal to exercise this measure of church discipline is cowardice.

Dawson's merciless condemnation of Bubba Copeland is shrouded in irony, Watkins notes:

Interestingly, these words of self-righteous condemnation came out of the mouth of a career criminal who escaped a life sentence without the possibility of parole. After all, Kenneth Bryan Dawson would have been doomed by Colorado's "Three Strikes and You're Out" law in felony cases.

Dawson’s extensive criminal court and prison records and various interviews with those who know him paint the profile of a man who was very violent and dangerous on the streets and in prison.  Dawson literally traded stolen vehicles to Mexican drug cartel members in exchange for cocaine that he trafficked throughout Colorado and elsewhere.  Additionally, Dawson nearly beat a police informant to death for "snitching" on him.

In prison, Dawson says he found God and experienced a proverbial “Saul to Paul conversion on the road to Damascus.”  Dawson claims he “repented” for his sins.

However, there is no public record of remorse where Kenneth Bryan Dawson publicly apologized to the thousands of individuals who became his crime victims, including minors who bought and used the cocaine and other illegal and illicit drugs he sold to them and whose lives were forever ruined by him.

Bubba Copeland was a radically different person from Bryan Dawson -- likely the kind of person Dawson knew he could never be -- and perhaps that is partly why Dawson found him so offensive. Writes Watkins:

Bubba Copeland was the mayor of Smiths Station, a small town in Lee County, Alabama. Copeland was also a successful local businessman and the pastor of First Baptist Church of Phenix City, Alabama.  He was a beloved figure in his community. 

Copeland was married to Angela Simpson Copeland. The couple were parents to a son, Carter L. Copeland (by a prior marriage), and two daughters, AbbyKate Elizabeth Dawson and Ally Catherine Dawson (no relationship to Kenneth Bryan Dawson).

Copeland was also a cross dresser (in the privacy of his home) and writer of erotic fiction. His fiction was not published on a commercial basis, nor circulated in public forums. They did not rise to the legal definition of pornography or obscene material.

Bubba Copeland worked hard to unify his community and he received awards for doing so. He never stopped working to better the lives of the residents of Smiths Station.

In Kenneth Bryan Dawson’s eyes, Bubba Copeland epitomized the “evil” in his church and community that Dawson abhorred because Copeland was a cross dresser and author of erotic fiction who embraced and supported ALL of the residents of Smiths Station and all members of his Phenix City church, regardless of their political beliefs, race, sexual orientation, gender identification, or socioeconomic status. 

Everybody was welcomed in Bubba Copeland’s home, business, church, community, and City Hall. He did not pick and choose who he would help and who would be forsaken. Bubba Copeland helped everybody and condemned no one.

Bryan Dawson, on the other hand, came to serve federal law enforcement, mainly because of his ugly history, Watkins writes:

A review of Kenneth Bryan Dawson’s court and prison records is revealing. He is a convicted cocaine trafficker, serial thief, and attempted murderer who, at one time, faced a possible 384 years in prison. Using a court-appointed attorney, Dawson was able to plead guilty to a few state criminal offenses and reduce his prison sentences to 4 and 12 years, respectively. Dawson also obtained time-served credits against these sentences for the time he spent in county jails during pretrial and post-trial lockups.

Considering the severity of Dawson's criminal record and the countless victims -- men, women, and children -- whose lives were ruined by his drug dealing, this plea deal was unheard of.

The felonious conduct for which Dawson was convicted in state court also gave rise to a multitude of federal criminal offenses, including: (a) RICO conspiracy, (b) drug trafficking, (c) VICAR attempted murder, (d) interstate motor-vehicle theft, (e) interstate travel in aid of racketeering, (f) witness tampering, and (g) retaliation against witnesses. Yet, Dawson was never charged with any of these federal offenses.

Only one pathway existed for Kenneth Bryan Dawson to escape federal criminal liability for his racketeering offenses, drug trafficking activities, and violent crimes. Dawson agreed to plead guilty to state charges and become a controlled federal operative, or informant, for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 

It was almost as if the Colorado prison system saw Bryan Dawson as a celebrity, someone deserving of deference and protection. Watkins writes:

Once he was inside the Colorado prison system, Kenneth Bryan Dawson embedded himself within the “white car” or white-supremacy group of inmates.  This move afforded Dawson inmate protection from possible retaliation by Mexican drug offenders in the same prisons who knew about Dawson from the “streets” and suspected that he was an informant for the DEA and FBI.

Dawson’s prison records also document the special treatment he received within the Colorado prison system. Even when Dawson engaged in episodes of violence against other inmates, his punitive time in the “Hole” was minimal.

Dawson was constantly moved around within the Colorado prison system to (a) minimize the chances that his informant status would be exposed and (b) prevent his death by those he betrayed in the drug cartel. Inmate “hit jobs” in prison are a routine occurrence.

Kenneth Bryan Dawson was released from prison early and relocated to a rural part of Alabama that had virtually no Mexican American or Spanish-speaking population. In Alabama, Dawson dropped his first name and used the alias “Bryan Dawson” to obscure his true identity. (In an autobiographical account at Newsweek, Dawson indicates he originally settled in Shorter, which is in central Alabama, roughly between Montgomery and Auburn. It's not clear if Dawson still resides in Shorter, although some online resources indicate he lives in Wetumpka.)

A similarly situated prisoner with Dawson’s record as a career criminal, who was NOT a federal law-enforcement informant, would still be in prison today, whether he experienced a “Saul to Paul” conversion or not.

Dawson had no known ties to the state of Alabama other than a prison romance he developed with a girlfriend who apparently had come to live in Alabama. (Dawson has written that they both grew up in Kansas and knew each other there in middle school and high school. Her name then was Kristina Ewen, and it's unclear how she wound up in Alabama. Dawson later married Kristina. Together, they have seven children.

In short, Watkins says, Dawson Has Been Platformed, Used, and Protected:

Once he relocated to Alabama, Kenneth Bryan Dawson wasted no time in using his intellectual acumen, Bible-spewing background, and “From Breaking Bad to Redemption” story to hook up with Birmingham-based politico Caleb Crosby and his network of supporters within the Alabama Policy Institute (API).

The Caleb Crosby hookup provided Dawson with financial access to real-estate magnate and former gubernatorial candidate Lynda Blanchard, wealthy Wellborn Cabinet owner and CEO Paul Wellborn, and other right-wing Christian nationalist/financial oligarchs in Alabama.

For whatever reason, Caleb Crosby and these wealthy oligarchs found comfort and solace in their association with Dawson, despite his violent, drug-trafficking past. API and its supporters have an unexplained affinity for Dawson and have become his enablers.

Crosby and company birthed Dawson’s 1819 News operation in 2021 with $1,077,500 that was funneled from API to a wholly owned affiliate named 1819 Media LLC, in a highly questionable "Trojan Horse" deal.  The technique API used to create 1819 Media was akin to money laundering, especially since the primary beneficiary of the $1,077,500 was Kenneth Bryan Dawson.

Dawson never registered with the Alabama Attorney General's office as a recipient of these API funds or a solicitor of contributions, as required by Alabama laws governing charitable organizations operating in the state of Alabama that received more than $25,000 in contributions.

Once 1819 Media was birthed, Kenneth Bryan Dawson was designated as the president, CEO, and publisher of 1819 News. For two years, 1819 News has functioned as the news media/propaganda wing of API. Today, 1819 News is regarded as API’s regrettable “Frankenstein.”

In exchange for a host of favorable articles on Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Kenneth Dawson gets a pass on state law-enforcement inquiries into his past criminal record and regulatory scrutiny of his current media activities. In Alabama political and news circles, Marshall is generally regarded as an impotent "media whore."

Dawson, who has no college degree in electronic multimedia or journalism, nor prior experience as a journalist, characterizes his 1819 News job as, “throwing rocks for a living.” Even Dawson's metaphor for his relatively new profession is violent.

Law-breaking appears to have been involved with Dawson's ties to federal law enforcement, Watkins writes:

The dossier on Bubba Copeland’s cross-dressing fetish and erotic works of fiction was reportedly furnished to 1819 News by a source within the federal law-enforcement community. The information was gathered as part of a law-enforcement investigation into certain Internet uses in the digital universe. It was ultimately determined that Bubba Copeland violated no federal or state laws in the matters under investigation.

In violation of federal statutes and U.S. Department of Justice policy guidelines on the use of electronic surveillance, the information gathered during the course of this federal investigation regarding Copeland was surreptitiously provided to 1819 News, on an unofficial and unauthorized basis, for the sole purpose of “outing,” embarrassing, and humiliating Bubba Copeland.

Because Copeland had violated no federal or state laws with his cross-dressing fetish and other personal conduct, there was no legitimate law-enforcement use for this sensitive information. It should have been sealed and archived within the law-enforcement agencies working on the task force that gathered this material.

1819 News used the dossier on Bubba Copeland as the primary source for its November 1, 2023, “hit job” on this popular mayor, respected businessman, unifying pastor, and beloved family man. They “outed” Copeland with glee and pleasure, as an apparent accommodation to Dawson’s federal law-enforcement handlers.

The speed at which 1819 News carried out its premeditated “hit job” on Copeland made no sense to those who engage in the business of news gathering, fact-checking, and publishing on a daily basis. 

1819 News claimed it learned of Bubba Copeland’s cross-dressing and erotic fiction activities on October 31, 2023, and the site reported the story the next day. 

1819 News did not report to law-enforcement officials what they claimed was Bubba Copeland’s improper conduct toward minors prior to publishing their November 1st article. This failure of duty by 1819 News adds credence to the reports we received from news sources that the sensitive and inflammatory information on Copeland was supplied to 1819 News by a law-enforcement source Dawson trusted.

This is reminiscent of the COINTELPRO period in American history, when FBI operatives harassed and tried to discredit organizations and individuals, including Dr. Martin Luther King, who were deemed subversive to U.S. stability. Writes Watkins:

The premeditated “hit job” on Bubba Copeland was a vigilante move by a federal law-enforcement community that has engaged in this kind of lawlessness before – many times. This kind of unlawful conduct formed the core of the FBI’s formal and secretive COINTELPRO program from 1956 to 1971

After the FBI’s centralized COINTELPRO program was exposed by activists and members of Congress in 1972, the FBI disbanded it. However, COINTELPRO activities continued on an ad hoc and unauthorized basis in Deep South states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia with little to no Department of Justice (DOJ) oversight.

One of the five main components of COINTELPRO was undermining public opinion about the targeted persons or organizations. The FBI typically discredited and/or destroyed a targeted person’s reputations in the community and denied them a platform to gain legitimacy. Furthermore, the Bureau created, distributed, and controlled the distribution of negative media content that was meant to embarrass and humiliate COINTELPRO targets.  

In Alabama, friendly media sources were recruited, groomed, and supplied with FBI-generated negative stories about the designated COINTEPRO targets.They eagerly smeared these targets.

Participating news organizations in Alabama included the Birmingham News, the Birmingham Post Herald, the Tuscaloosa News, the Montgomery Advertiser, and Mobile Press Register, none of which have publicly acknowledged its historical role as an unpaid participant in the official or ad hoc COINTEPRO program. 

Today, has two well-known, FBI-friendly, COINTELPRO participants in its midst.1819 News has Kenneth Bryan Dawson operating in its COINTELPRO role.

The COINTELPRO program succeeded in forcing Hollywood actress Jean Seberg to commit suicide in 1979. The FBI created a false story in 1970 stating that Seberg, who was White and married, conceived her baby with a member of the Black Panther Party. This fake story was circulated to friendly media sources. The trauma from the publication of this false story caused Seberg to experience a miscarriage. The FBI's COINTELPRO operations took a heavy emotional and psychological toll on Seberg. She repeatedly attempted suicide on the anniversary of the child's death. In August 1979, Seberg succeeded in killing herself.

A modern-day version of COINTELPRO succeeded in forcing Bubba Copeland to commit suicide on November 3rd.

In summary, Watkins writes:

The culprits who are involved in Bubba Copeland’s "homicide by suicide" case almost pulled off this COINTELPRO-style "hit job" with their trusted media operative, Kenneth Bryan Dawson, without being exposed by today's FBI-friendly legacy media in Alabama and without adverse consequences to them -- thus far.

The premeditated "hit job" by Kenneth Bryan Dawson and 1819 News targeted Bubba Copeland because of his cross-dressing fetish or gender identification. This homicide qualifies as a federal hate crime under 18 U.S.C. § 249 that resulted in Bubba Copeland's death. This "hit job" also rises to the level of premeditated murder under Alabama state criminal statutes.

This is my informed journalistic opinion about what happened to Bubba Copeland, and why! All other alternative explanations for Bubba Copeland’s homicide lack credibility and have no adequate basis in fact to support them.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The legal squabble surrounding the iconic duo of Daryl Hall and John Oates probably is driven by the massive mounds of cash that the sale of music rights can attract


Daryl Hall and John Oates (Rolling Stone)

The legal spat involving the iconic duo Hall and Oates has its roots in trends that have shaken up the music industry, according to a report by Dan Primack and Tim Baysinger at the Axios AM Newsletter. Axios calls it the "Shadow music industry," with Primack and Baysinger writing:

Daryl Hall's lawsuit against John Oates could pull back the curtain on the secretive and booming music-rights market. The growth of streaming music — coupled with the increase in licensing opportunities in TV shows, movies and video games — is increasing the value of holding song rights and making them attractive investments.

Instead of licensing copyrights for a set amount of time, many artists are selling them outright to the highest bidder.

That apparently is what Oates wants to do, but the idea met with resistance from his high-profile partner. Hall's response, more or less, was "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do.)" Why did Oates' plans leave Hall cold? Mainly, it's because Hall has a long memory. From Axios:

The benefit for the buyer depends on the deal. But investment firms view music rights as stable assets that likely won't depreciate.

Years ago, Hall and Oates sold part of their catalog. Now it appears that Oates recently agreed to sell at least some of his remaining rights.

Hall has long bemoaned the original deal and — under seal — sued to stop a new sale. The judge lifted some of it and said more information soon could be publicly disclosed.

That's of particular interest, given how little we typically learn about these music rights deals.

Bottom line: Big money can be made from selling music rights. That probably is what prompted John Oates' idea to put at least part of his catalog on the market -- and Oates is not the only well-known musician to hear the clarion call of big dollars changing hands. From Axios:

Money is flowing back into the industry after a yearlong dry spell and some financial trouble around Hipgnosis, one of its biggest players.

Last week, Broadcast Music Inc. — a major holder of music rights — was sold in a deal that could be worth $1.7 billion, according to industry trade outlet Music Business Worldwide.

Morgan Stanley is partnering with a large music publishing company to spend $700 million to acquire song copyrights.

As for artists, Bob Dylan sold his songwriting catalog in 2020 for a reported $250 to $300 million -- and followed that about a year later by selling his recording catalog, which dates to 1962, for a reported $150 to $200 million. Dylan is not alone when it comes to selling off his music rights. From a 2020 report at Forbes:

The last few years have seen a plethora of music legends cashing in on their recording and songwriting catalogs. In April, Paul Simon’s song catalog was also sold to Sony for $250 million. Two weeks ago, David Bowie’s entire music catalog sold to Warner Chappell Music for more than $250 million, several news outlets reported. Stevie Nicks and Neil Young have also sold stakes in their catalogs. The pandemic has been a driving force for artists deciding to sell their music, Rolling Stone reported, because touring wasn’t possible. Tax reasons, estate planning, and larger economic factors may also be contributing to why artists are opting to sell their catalogs. Nostalgia, and new opportunities for old music, like fitness apps, may also be factoring in to the trend, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Legends aren't the only ones who can join the party. Axios reports that Katy Perry sold catalog rights to five of her albums for $225 million. That raises a question from this Baby Boomer: Who in the heck is Katy Perry?

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Advocacy group says appointment of Balch & Bingham partner to Jacksonille, FL, investment board should be tabled due to the firm's ugly history on matters of race

Jacksonville, Florida

The appointment of a partner at Birmingham's Balch & Bingham law firm to an investment board of the Jacksonville, Florida, City Council should be put on hold, according to a post today from K.B. Forbes, publisher of Ban Balch and CEO of the blog's parent organization -- the CDLU public charity and advocacy group -- says Patrick Krechowski's appointment should be tabled due to Balch's history of troubling actions on matters of race (see here and here). Jacksonville's population is 30 percent Black.

Under the headline "Jax Axe? Balch Partner Krechowski “Old Enough to Know Better,” Forbes writes:

Civil rights champion Ernesto Pichardo, who won a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision for civil rights and religious freedom in 1993 against the City of Hialeah, Florida, demanded today that the Jacksonville, FL, City Council table the appointment of Patrick Krechowski to the Downtown Investment Authority Board of Directors.

“Patrick Krechowski is a partner at the alleged racist and embattled law firm of Balch & Bingham. Two former Balch attorneys are sitting in federal prison, now, today, this very moment: one for bribery and money laundering; the other for possession of kiddie porn. As a partner, Mr. Krechowski cannot say he doesn’t know about the deplorable misconduct at the firm,” declared Pichardo who serves as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Consejo de Latinos Unidos (CDLU), a public charity and national advocacy organization.

Pichardo added, “Just recently, the Town of Orange Park rejected the hiring of Mr. Krechowski and Balch & Bingham, a humiliating defeat for a seasoned attorney. Mr. Krechowski is old enough to know better and should have the wisdom to leave Balch & Bingham and their baggage behind. There are many other, more honorable law firms in Jacksonville.”

 What about the former Balch attorneys now residing in prison? Forbes has details:

In October of 2021, ex-Balch partner, Joel I. Gilbert reported to federal prison to serve a five-year sentence for bribery and money laundering in the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal, which targeted low-income African American children and their families from having the EPA test their toxic and contaminated property. The bribery scheme was born at the offices of Balch & Bingham. North Birmingham is 92.5 percent African American, and Balch has yet to apologize or make amends with the community.

In March, Chase T. Espy, a long-time Balch attorney was sentenced to 97 months in federal prison for possession of child pornography. In 2021, Espy was arrested for allegedly soliciting a child online. The CDLU immediately reached out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which investigates child trafficking and exploitation. CDLU’s advocacy led to the federal indictment of Espy in June of 2022.

Because of CDLU’s advocacy, Balch has seen 18 of 18 major clients in Washington, D.C. terminate them Balch & Bingham appears to have lost between $40 and $100 million in the aggregate as the firm has seen the departure of clients and legacy and money-making partners since 2017.

In 1993, Pichardo won a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision for religious freedom and civil rights after his Afro-Caribbean faith came under attack due to blatant intolerance and discrimination by racists and religious bigots. Pichardo has been a member of the board of directors of the CDLU since 2003.

A clue "hiding in plain sight" is unearthed, causing the real story behind the death of small-town Alabama mayor Bubba Copeland to unspool into full light


Fred "Bubba" Copeland

Newly discovered evidence indicates small-town Alabama mayor Fred "Bubba" Copeland was the target of an intentional "hit job,' carried out by individuals who have engaged in such actions before, according to a report at Watkins, a longtime Alabama attorney who has become a leading voice in online investigative journalism, says he stumbled upon evidence that essentially was right there all along, and it casts an entirely new light on Bubba Copeland's death.

Under the headline "A Stunning New Development in the Fred “Bubba” Copeland Suicide Case," Watkins writes:

It was there all along.  A key fact that was hiding in plain sight.  

I casually mentioned it in one of my early articles on the “hit job” 1819 News carried out on Fred “Bubba” Copeland, the small-town mayor of Smiths Station, Alabama. 

The speed at which 1819 News carried out this “hit job” made no sense from a news gathering, fact-checking, and reporting standpoint.  1819 News learned of Bubba Copeland’s cross-dressing activities (in the privacy of his home) and works of erotic fiction on October 31, 2023, and published its "hit piece" on Copeland the next day.

1819 News did not report this information to law enforcement officials before publishing the article, even though they later claimed that Copeland might have been victimizing unsuspecting women and children.

There had to be more to this bizarre story – and there was.  Much more!

So, how did Donald Watkins uncover the "much more" in the Bubba Copeland story? It wasn't easy:

Time, patience, a lot of digging in five states and two countries, and more than 40 years of experience in uncovering “cover ups” allowed me to finally assemble all of the pieces needed to solve this puzzle.  The last piece fell into place Sunday night.

The “hit job” on Bubba Copeland was a vigilante move by people who have surreptitiously done this kind of thing before – many times1819 News was the selected conduit for the Copeland “hit job” because Kenneth Bryan Dawson is a longtime controlled operative.

They almost pulled off the Copeland “hit job” without being exposed and without suffering any adverse consequences to themselves.

What, or who, was was the loose thread that caused the real story of Bubba Copeland's death to unravel? Watkins explains:

The “Archilles heel” in this diabolical scheme has always been Kenneth Bryan Dawson, the chosen "hit man."  Dawson's career criminal history and voluminous prison records provided a “gold mine” of information that eventually helped me solve this “whodunit” homicide.

These documents also aided me in identifying the people who furnished 1819 News with the information it needed to “out” Bubba Copeland and force him to commit suicide.

Stay tuned for a blockbuster ending to the "whodunit" of who killed Bubba Copeland, and why!

Sunday, November 26, 2023

John Oates tries to sell his music catalog, and Daryl Hall responds with fuzzy lawsuit, essentially saying: Wait a Minute; "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)"

Daryl Hall and John Oates (Getty Images)

The dispute behind a mysterious legal complaint involving one of the biggest musical acts of the 1980s (and 1970s) is starting to gain some clarity. Daryl Hall and John Oates hold the distinction of being the most successful duo of all time, ahead of such acts as the Carpenters, the Everly Brothers, and Simon & Garfunkel.

A lawsuit recently entered Hall & Oates massively successful partnership, and since the court file was mostly sealed, the public knew little about what was driving the conflict. Thanks to reporting from Axios, we now have a feel for what's going on. Writes Mike Allen of the Axios AM Newsletter:

In Axios PM last week, we told you the iconic rock duo Hall & Oates is in the thick of a mysterious litigation battle in Nashville. Daryl Hall was granted a restraining order against John Oates — but details were sealed. Now it's less mysterious:

Hall's court filing asserts that Oates plans to sell off his share of their joint venture, which would violate confidential terms, AP reports.

* A judge blocked the sale while arbitration and Hall's lawsuit are ongoing.

* A Nashville chancery court judge said in the Nov. 16 temporary restraining order that, for now, Oates and others involved in his trust can't move to close the sale of their share of Whole Oats Enterprises to Primary Wave IP Investment Management.

* Primary Wave has held a "significant interest" in Hall and Oates' copyright catalog for 15+ years.

Here is more from a separate Axios report

Known for hits such as "Rich Girl" and "You Make My Dreams," the award-winning duo met in Philadelphia while both were students at Temple University.

* When asked when the next Hall & Oates record would be coming out, Hall said " ... I have no idea. I don't have any plans to work with John. I mean, whatever. Time will tell," per an interview with the Los Angeles Times in March 2022.

* Asked about reports that the two were working on a record together, Hall said: "That was before the pandemic. Perceptions changed, life changed, everything changed. I'm more interested in pursuing my own world. And so is John."

Hall and Oates write most of their own material, either separately or collaboratively, with Oates providing electric guitar and backing vocals (and hand claps, per a gag on Saturday Night Live), and Hall taking a primary role as lead vocalist, chief songwriter, guitarist, and keyboardist. Hall has had bad experiences with transactions involving his music catalog, and it appears Oates' actions caught him off guard. Reports Mike Allen:

In a 2021 interview with Sky News, Hall showed he was bitter about the sale of his back catalog.

* "Oh, in the early days, it got sold off for me and I didn't get the money," he said. He advised artists to retain their publishing rights: "[A]ll you have is that."

As for the legal situation, Axios provides this background:

The lawsuit, classified as a "Contract/Debt" dispute within the Nashville Chancery Court, was filed Nov. 16.

* In the complaint, John Oates and his wife, Aimee Oates, are listed as defendants, along with Richard Flynn.

* Aimee Oates and Flynn are marked as co-trustees of The John W. Oates TISA Trust, according to the court records.

Court records also reveal Hall's request for a temporary restraining order, which was granted Nov. 17 and begins on Nov. 30.

* The restraining bond, per the record, was set at $50,000.

A court hearing is scheduled for this Thursday (11/30/23).

As an unabashed Hall & Oates fan, I'm hoping they will iron out their differences and return to making memorable music. The guys are getting up there in years -- Hall is 77 and Oates is 75 -- but I suspect they have quite a bit of gas left in their musical tank. As far as I can tell, their ability to combine elements of blue-eyed soul, R&B, rock, pop, and their hometown Philadelphia Sound is unique in the music world. 

Mrs. Schnauzer (my wife, Carol) and I had the good fortune to see Hall & Oates in concert a few years back at Birmingham's historic Alabama Theatre. We can confirm that they are a splendid live act. We would encourage any music lover who has a chance to see them to get tickets.

The Hall & Oates catalog is so extensive that  it's hard to pick out just a few favorites. A special favorite of mine is a song that is well-known, but many people might not realize it was written by Daryl Hall, and first performed by, Hall & Oates (on their 1980 Voices album). The originators never released it as a single, but British artist Paul Young released a cover version of "Every Time You Go Away" in 1985, and it became an international hit, going to No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 4 in the UK.

Here are Hall & Oates performing their original version of "Every Time You Go Away" in  1995. How strong are Daryl Hall's vocals here? I suspect vocal performance does not get much better than this. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Allegations of money laundering enter the complex equation that brought career criminal Bryan Dawson to 1819 News, leading to the suicide of Bubba Copeland

Bryan Dawson (left) and Caleb Crosby

The former president and CEO of the conservative think tank Alabama Policy Institute (API) has been named in a criminal complaint that alleges money laundering in violation of federal campaign-finance laws, according to a post today at API is the founding entity behind 1819 News, the right-wing website that published a series of articles leading to the suicide of small-town Alabama mayor Fred "Bubba" Copeland. As CEO of API, Caleb Crosby formed 1819 News and entrusted it to career criminal Kenneth Bryan Dawson, who signed off on the Copeland articles, drawing condemnation from prominent voices in journalism and ethics around the country.

API might be the subject of a different kind of scrutiny now that a Washington, D.C., watchdog group has named him in a complaint alleging unlawful laundering of campaign contributions to political candidates in Florida. Watkins, a longtime Alabama attorney who has become a leading voice in online investigative journalism, writes under the headline "Alabama Policy Institute's Caleb Crosby Named as a Participant in An FEC Money Laundering Complaint":

On January 25, 2023, 1819 News announced the departure of Caleb Crosby as the President and CEO of the Alabama Policy Institute (API).  According to 1819 News, “Crosby's leadership and vision were also credited for the formation and successful launch of both Rightside Radio and 1819 News.”

1819 News was launched in October 2021 with $1,077,500 that was funneled from API’s coffers to a nonprofit affiliate it owned called 1819 Media LLC. 1819 News is run by convicted cocaine trafficker, serial motorcycle and ATV thief, and attempted murderer Kenneth Bryan Dawson. He is the founder, president, chief executive officer, and publisher of 1819 News.

It was Caleb Crosby who brought Dawson into the API fold and trusted Dawson to do what was needed with the $1,077,500 1819 Media received from API.

Was 1819 News' reporting on Caleb Crosby's departure a model of journalistic transparency? Not exactly, reports Watkins:

In its January 25th article, 1819 News omitted any mention of the October 26, 2022, complaint that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Caleb Crosby, his Washington-based Senate Leadership Fund, and the litany of persons and entities that allegedly acted in concert with Crosby to violate federal campaign finance laws by unlawfully laundering campaign contributions to candidates for elective office in Florida. 

The purpose and effect of the alleged money laundering scheme was to illegally hide the identities of the true source or sources of contributions by routing them through conduit nonprofits to Super-PACs, which would ultimately fund electioneering activities.

Caleb Crosby and his Senate Leadership Fund were expressly named as "Respondents" in the CREW complaint.

The money-laundering allegations apparently made Caleb Crosby toxic in the API orbit, writes Watkins:

Within two months after the CREW complaint was filed with the FEC, Caleb Crosby fled API. Thereafter, API began the legal process of distancing itself from a very toxic Kenneth Bryan Dawson and 1819 Media.

On December 9, 2022, Dawson formed a “for-profit” corporate entity named 1819 News, LLC. This entity continues to function as the multimedia news/propaganda wing of API.

On May 11, 2023, API and Dawson dissolved 1819 Media as a legal entity.

API continues to maintain editorial control over Dawson's 1819 News, via funding from API-affiliated mega-donors. Likewise, 1819 News continues to promote the causes and people affiliated with API.

Like many stories involving peculiar activities, this one can be filed under the heading of "Follow the Money," Watkins reports:

API's transfer of $1,077,500 to 1819 Media fits the pattern of money laundering that is alleged in the CREW complaint.  API's infusion of cash to 1819 Media and Kenneth Bryan Dawson was so massive that 1819 Media ended the 2021 tax year with a surplus of $590,251.

Beyond the $1,077,500 funneled to 1819 Media, API declared an additional $405,177 in Part III(4)(b) of its Form 990 for “expenses” related to "news media services."

In all, three-fourths of API's money for 2021 was channeled into media activities, with Kenneth Bryan Dawson getting the lion's share of this money.

That brings us to API's board of directors, or as Watkins puts it -- "What Did API Board Members Know About Dawson, and When Did They Know It?

In Part VI(A)(5) of API’s 2021 tax return, the nonprofit organization claimed that it did not “become aware during the year of a significant diversion of the organization’s assets.”

API’s Form 990 for 2021, however, affirms that its board members had actual aknowledge of the $1,077,500 in cash that was transfered to 1819 Media and Dawson, and approved or ratified it. In fact, API certified in Part VI(B)(11)(a) that a copy of the 990 was provided to each board member before it was filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

One of the board members listed on the Form 2021 for 2021 who received a copy of the tax return before it was filed is Huntsville, AL, attorney Rod Steakley. Based upon Steakley's legal expertise and professional background, he should have conducted heightened scrutiny on: (a) API’s transfer of $1,077,500 to 1819 Media and (b) Kenneth Bryan Dawson’s extensive criminal history. Steakley also serves as the longtime outside legal counsel to Alabama A&M University.

Did Steakley simply skip those steps in the oversight process? The answer to that question (and others)  appears to have intentionally been kept under wraps. Writes Watkins:

So, what happened to 1819 Media's $590,251 surplus in 2022? The answer to this question is shrouded in secrecy because API has not made its Form 990 for 2022 publicly available. 

The Form 990 for 2022 was originally due on May 15, 2023.  Assuming API sought and received a one-time automatic six-month extension for filing the Form 990, it would have been due on November 15, 2023.

API has engaged in a web of deceit concerning the creation of 1819 Media and the true nature and scope of its history with Kenneth Bryan Dawson. This web of deceit is described in detail in an exclusive November 23, 2023, Thanksgiving Day article we published on this website.

Today, API, Kenneth Bryan Dawson, and 1819 News are swept up in a firestorm of controversy in the aftermath of a November 1, 2023, 1819 News article that “outed” Smiths Station, Alabama, Mayor Fred “Bubba” Copeland’s cross-dressing (in the privacy of his home) and his James Patterson-style works of erotic fiction. An embarrassed and emotionally distraught Copeland responded to this article by killing himself two days later. 

Copeland’s suicide is the subject of a homicide investigation by the Lee County, Alabama, Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices.

API's shifting of funds to 1819 Media and Dawson points to several possible criminal violations and should draw the attention of both the FBI and IRS offices in Alabama, Watkins writes:

The CREW complaint of alleged campaign finance law violations is reportedly the subject of state and federal criminal investigations in Florida.

API's $1,077,500 transaction with 1819 Media and Kenneth Bryan Dawson cries out for a criminal investigation by Alabama-based FBI and IRS Criminal Division law enforcement officials. It is dripping with the stench of alleged "theft by charitable fraud," money laundering, and federal tax fraud.

Former president Donald Trump was indicted on 91 felony counts (including a Georgia state RICO charge) in four different state and federal jurisdictions on far less objective evidence than is present in the alleged API/1819 Media/Kenneth Bryan Dawson charitable fraud, tax fraud, and FEC money laundering case.