Leaderboard 728 X 90

Friday, February 12, 2016

Obama nominates Alabama federal judge Abdul Kallon to open seat on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, proving incompetence still has its rewards

Abdul Kallon
(From al.com)
What do you do if you have appointed one of the worst federal judges in modern Deep South history? If you are President Barack Obama, you try to promote him.

Abdul Kallon, a federal trial-court judge from the Northern District of Alabama, has been nominated to fill a vacant seat on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Cout of Appeals (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida), the White House announced yesterday.

Could Obama possibly have made a worse appointment? Given that Clarence Thomas already is on the U.S. Supreme Court and Kallon's dreadful Birmingham colleague, Reagan appointee William M. Acker Jr., is a mere 88 years old, I don't think it's possible.

Obama has a dismal record on justice issues in the South. He has ignored the grave injustice Bush administration officials inflicted upon former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman; he has appointed the ineffectual Joyce White Vance (Northern District) and George Beck (Middle District) as U.S. attorneys, who have turned blind eyes to rampant white-collar and right-wing crime in the state; he has appointed horrible district judges, such as Kallon (in 2009) and Madeline Haikala (in 2013; more on her in upcoming posts.)

Perhaps Obama said to himself, "I've made one screw-up after another on federal appointments in Alabama, so why start making good decisions now?" We do have to admire the president's consistency--he's been consistently awful on important decisions that affect our state.

How could a bright guy like Obama make one dunderhead move after another? For one, Alabama is a red state--and that's not going to change anytime soon--so Obama probably doesn't give his decisions here much thought. Also, I suspect he's taking advice from one of the state's prominent DINOs (Democrat In Name Only), someone like former Clinton-era U.S. Attorney Doug Jones or former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, who now might best be known as an Ashley Madison customer.

It's a matter of public record that Obama appointed Kallon to the bench in the first place on the recommendation of Artur Davis, who has proven to be one of the most feckless politicians of all time--crashing and burning when he tried to become governor by sucking up to corporate interests while repeatedly insulting his Democratic base.

Seeking political advice from Artur Davis is like asking Bernie Madoff for help balancing your checkbook. It's not likely to end well.

As for Doug Jones, he continues to con people into thinking he believes deeply in civil rights because he prosecuted a KKK bombing case from the 1960s. In fact, Jones (like many lawyers) is a money whore. He charged Siegelman $300,000 for criminal defense and bailed out before the case ever went to trial. All indications are that Jones kept the money, and Siegelman got almost nothing from his representation.

If Jones is involved in the decision to promote Kallon, and I'm betting he is, that explains a lot--maybe everything--about Obama's tendency to appoint worthless "Democrats" from the Alabama legal community.

What's wrong with Jones? Perhaps a better question might be, "What's not wrong with Jones?" One of his legal allies is Rob Riley, the son of former GOP Governor Rob Riley and scion of one of the South's most corrupt political families. The Rileys long have held a fondness for the right-wing Birmingham law firm Bradley Arant (BABC), shuffling some $10 million in state funds to the firm during the last two year's of Bob Riley's Reign of Error. For good measure Riley son-in-law Rob Campbell, married to Bob's daughter and Rob's sister (Minda Riley Campbell) serves as a partner at BABC, when he isn't trying to line up a little flesh on the side, via the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site.

Guess what firm Abdul Kallon worked at before Obama plucked him out of obscurity and plopped him on the federal bench. If you guessed "Bradley Arant," you are a winner.

I'm not just guessing that Kallon is a wretched judge; I've seen his "work product" with my own eyes. He has been the judge in two cases that involved yours truly and my wife, Carol--one was a debt-collection case and one involved an unlawful sheriff's sale of our house in Shelby County.

I made it a practice to read Kallon's rulings closely and then check his work against the actual law. Did he make a correct call at any point in our two cases? I don't remember one.

In fact, Carol and I have come to despise Kallon so much that I wrote a 2012 piece titled "U.S. Judge Abdul Kallon Is the No. 1 Reason I Can No Longer Support Barack Obama." I was an enthusiastic Obama voter in 2008, but I don't think I voted for him in 2012--or if I did, it was only as a protest vote against Mitt Romney. I know this for sure--I never would support Obama for anything again. If a candidate for national office proves that he doesn't care whether our justice system is functional or not, I'm not interested in him.

Here's what I wrote in August 2012, roughly three months before the presidential election:

I could write a 100-page treatise on the reasons I have come to hold Barack Obama in utter contempt. They all have to do with Obama's stupefying failures on justice issues, which were driven home again last week by the resentencing of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to almost six years in prison for "crimes" that do not exist under the law.

As a resident of Alabama, I see the Siegelman fiasco as clear evidence that a modern strain of Stalinism has come to the American South. But on an even more personal level, my disdain for Obama can be summed up in two words--Abdul Kallon.

Probably the single most important personnel decision Obama has made in our state was the appointment of the 43-year-old Kallon as a federal judge in the Northern District of Alabama. It's a lifetime job, and unless Kallon meets an untimely demise, he could be handing down rulings for another 40 years or more.

That's a scary thought because my wife and I have had two cases before Kallon--and he butchered them both.

How did Kallon butcher our debt-collection case? A summary is available here.

What about the screw job related to our house? A summary of that is available here. (Video of the actual theft of the full property rights to our own house can be viewed at the end of this post.) The key issue there was a controversial concept called the Rooker-Feldman Doctine, which essentially holds that lower federal courts (other than the U.S. Supreme Court) should not sit in direct review of state-court judgments. There are so many exceptions to Rooker-Feldman that some legal commentators have said little is left of it.

Here are details about how Kallon trampled justice in our case--and it involved something fairly important to us, our home. This might be more hard-core legal analysis than most readers want, but it provides vivid detail to show that Abdul Kallon is not qualified to sit on any federal bench, much less be promoted to the Eleventh Circuit:

Several exceptions exist to Rooker-Feldman, and some of them applied to our case. I feel certain that Abdul Kallon is smart enough to know that. But his actions suggest that granting us relief would have conflicted with the predetermined outcome that had been assigned to our case.

Here are brief looks at four specific issues on which Kallon cheated us:

(1) Mrs. Schnauzer's Claims Regarding the House She Jointly Owns--It was undisputed in our federal lawsuit that my wife is joint owner of our house. It also was undisputed that she was not a party to the state lawsuit our neighbor filed, resulting in a judgment of about $1,500 against me. A U.S. Supreme Court case styled Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459 (2006) governs, and it holds:

"The Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not bar actions by nonparties to the earlier state-court judgment simply because, for purposes of preclusion law, they could be considered in privity with a party to the judgment."

Kallon clearly had jurisdiction to hear my wife's claims that her property interests had been unconstitutionally violated. He unlawfully refused to hear those claims.

(2) My Claims Regarding the House I Jointly Own--It's undisputed that I filed a claim of exemption regarding the notice of levy that had been placed on our house over the $1,500 judgment. It's undisputed that Shelby County Judge Hub Harrington, contrary to procedural and statutory law, conducted no hearing on my claim of exemption. The governing case is styled Dale v. Moore, 121 F. 3d 624 (11th Cir., 1997), and it states that Rooker-Feldman applies only where . . .

"the party seeking relief in federal court had a reasonable opportunity to raise its federal claims in the state-court proceeding."

I filed a motion stating that our neighbor, Mike McGarity, had not contested my claim of exemption, so by law, the sheriff's sale could not proceed. I cited Rule 69(f) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure and showed that was binding law where no contest had been filed. Harrington conducted no hearing on the matter and allowed the sheriff's sale to proceed, violating my rights to due process and equal protection of the law. . . .  
(3) A Final State-Court Judgment? What Final State-Court Judgment?--Rooker-Feldman can be a pain for those who have been treated unlawfully in state courts. But it comes with significant limitations. Perhaps the most important one is spelled out in Nicholson v. Shafe, 558 F. 3d 1266 (11th Cir., 2009):

"Pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, lower federal courts are precluded from exercising appellate jurisdiction over final state-court judgments."

We were contesting an unlawful sheriff's sale. It did not involve a state-court judgment, final or otherwise. It's questionable whether it even involved a state-court order. If it did, I never was served with one.

By the clear language of Nicholson, my claim was not barred by Rooker-Feldman. Kallon unlawfully barred it anyway.

(4) Inextricably Intertwined?--In some cases, a federal claim can be barred if it is found to be "inextricably intertwined" with a state-court judgment. What does that mean? A case styled Casale v. Tillman, 558 F. 3d 1258 (11th Circ., 2009) spells it out:

"A claim is inextricably intertwined if it would effectively nullify the state court judgment . . . or it succeeds only to the extent that the state court wrongly decided the issues."

My federal claim did not contest the $1,500 state-court judgment. In fact, I did not contest any state-court action. I contested the unlawful actions of Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry in allowing a sale to proceed, contrary to clear law. I also contested Judge Harrington's unlawful interference in a case that statutorily rests with the sheriff. But neither of those claims had anything to do with whether the $1,500 judgment was or was not correctly decided. And neither would nullify the state-court judgment.

The claims simply stated that if someone was going to try to make a claim on our property, they had to do it as prescribed by Alabama law.

To simplify matters, we invite you to focus on item No. 1 above. Public records show that Carol Shuler was not a party to the state-court case leading to our federal claim. And the law clearly states that the claims of anyone not a party to an underlying state case are not precluded by Rooker-Feldman. It's undisputed that Carol was joint owner of our house, so she had a major property interest in the bogus sheriff's sale.

All of that tells us that Kallon is not just incompetent; he's also corrupt. No judge could be so incompetent as to get item No. 1 wrong. But Kallon got it wrong, and that tells me someone told him our case was to go away quietly, and he went along with it--even if that meant Carol's property rights were trampled.

If Alabama's Republican U.S. Senator's, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, decide to block the Kallon nomination, I would side with them. And I don't agree with Shelby or Sessions on much of anything.

More than likely, the Senate will give Kallon a free pass to the Eleventh Circuit, without taking a serious look at his shortcomings as a judge.

If that happens, I can think of one positive outcome--residents of the Northern District of Alabama will no longer have to worry about Kallon trashing their cases at the trial-court level. They will only have to worry about him, and his equally corrupt colleague Bill Pryor, if they have to file an appeal.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Did Missouri sheriff Jim Arnott concoct a "cover charge" against my wife to help protect the deputy whose brutality left her with a shattered left arm?

Cecily McMillan
(From wsj.com)
Is it possible for a law-enforcement officer to bring a bogus assault charge against a victim of police brutality? It's not only possible, but the practice is so common that it has been labeled with a nickname--"a cover charge."

We first heard about a "cover charge" in a Think Progress story about a Chicago police officer who plans to file a lawsuit against the estate of a teen-ager he shot and killed. Officer Robert Rialmo claims he shot Quintonio LeGrier seven times because the 19-year-old swung a baseball bat at him. Rialmo claims LeGrier assaulted him and caused him distress. During the incident, Rialmo accidentally shot a neighbor, Bettie Jones, in the chest and killed her.

Melissa Chan, a reporter for Time magazine, picked up on the Rialmo lawsuit, quoting a lawyer, who said, "That's a new low for the Chicago Police Department."

Did Missouri Sheriff Jim Arnott resort to using a "cover charge" when he claimed my wife, Carol, had "assaulted a police officer" during an unlawful eviction at our rented apartment on September 9, 2015, in Springfield, Missouri? Arnott uttered those words after watching from about five feet away while one of his deputies slammed Carol to the ground and yanked violently on her arms in a backward-and-upward direction.

Arnott caused Carol to be handcuffed, placed in the back of a squad car, and taken to the Greene County Jail for booking. During that process, someone finally noticed that Carol was in severe pain and ordered her taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation. X-rays showed that her left arm was snapped in two just above a elbow, a break so severe that it required trauma surgery for repair--and even then, she is expected to have, at best, 75 percent usage of her arm.

Carol Shuler
When it became clear that Carol had been the victim of an assault, not the perpetrator of one, she was ordered released, and no charges have been filed.

Reporter Aviva Shen, at Think Progress, said it is unusual for a police officer to file a lawsuit against the estate of someone he shot and killed--especially when the victim's family already had filed a wrongful-death lawsuit. But a "cover charge," which usually amounts to a bogus criminal charge of assault, apparently happens way more than many of us would like to think. Writes Shen:

Though Rialmo is planning to file a civil lawsuit for his emotional distress, it is not uncommon for police officers to criminally charge victims of brutality with assault, a tactic known as a “cover charge.” New York City prosecutors even charged an unarmed police shooting victim with felony assault, for causing police to accidentally shoot bystanders when they were aiming for him.

An Occupy Wall Street activist named Cecily McMillan was the apparent victim of a "cover charge" in May 2014 in New York City. Aviva Shen also covered the McMillan story for Think Progress:

Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan has been sentenced to 3 months in jail and five years probation for assaulting a police officer, a charge that sparked outrage and protests earlier this month. McMillan, who said she threw her elbow up behind her instinctively after the officer groped her breast, faced up to seven years in prison for felony assault. The perceived injustice inspired multiple petitions on McMillan’s behalf and close public scrutiny — but could the 25-year-old graduate student’s case help bring attention to others like her?

Despite medical photographs of McMillan’s bruises, including a hand-shaped mark on her breast, Officer Grantley Bovell said McMillan attacked him unprovoked, and prosecutor Erin Choi said McMillan’s claims were “so utterly ridiculous and unbelievable that she might as well have said that aliens came down that night and assaulted her.” Grainy cell phone footage of the altercation makes it unclear whose version of events is accurate.

Shen went on to address the issue of "cover charges":

McMillan’s conviction sparked a flurry of media coverage and a protest in Zuccotti Park. But her predicament is unfortunately quite common. Police often charge victims of brutality with anything from assault to disorderly conduct to discredit their claims of police misconduct. While it is nearly impossible to compile exact statistics on this practice, sometimes called “cover” arrests, video recording has helped expose a number of cases where police have wrongfully charged people or fabricated police reports to justify violence.
X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm
For instance, another Occupy activist was cleared last year of charges that he “charged the police like a linebacker” after video footage showed cops tackling him as he was trying to get up. In another high profile case, police charged two University of Maryland students with felony assault, claiming they attacked officers on horses after a basketball game. A month later, a video emerged showing the cops beating an unarmed student with batons over a dozen times for no apparent reason.

Perhaps a more accurate term for this nauseating practice might be a "cover your ass charge."

No matter what you call it, evidence strongly suggests Carol Shuler was the victim of a "cover charge" in Greene County, Missouri--winding up falsely arrested and imprisoned, for no reason at all.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Judge in Mike Hubbard case has family ties to the law firm that now is trying to keep the Alabama House Speaker from an up-close view of our state prisons

Judge Jacob Walker III
(Note: This post has been updated [in the second paragraph] to show that a hearing in the Mike Hubbard case has been rescheduled from Feb. 10 to Feb. 16.)

The judge in the Mike Hubbard corruption case used to be the primary partner in the law firm that now is helping to defend the Alabama House Speaker. In fact, Judge Jacob Walker's family built the firm that now is trying to earn a not-guilty verdict for Hubbard on a 23-count indictment of ethics-law violations.

When you add this information to the affidavit Montgomery political consultant Baron Coleman filed, claiming possible prosecutorial misconduct, an upcoming hearing in the case should be filled with intrigue. The hearing was set for today (Feb. 10), but has been rescheduled for next Tuesday (Feb. 16). The court gave prosecutors until Feb. 11 to respond to Coleman's affidavit.

A document filed on January 20, 2016, in the Hubbard case shows that two of the lawyers representing the speaker are Phillip E. Adams Jr. and Blake Oliver of the Opelika firm Adams White Oliver Short and Forbus.

A 1998 appellate case shows that Jacob A. Walker III was with the Opelika firm of Walker Hill Adams Umbach Meadows and Walton. Walker, as you can see, was listed in the No. 1 position on the firm's nameplate. That's the same Jacob A. Walker III who, about the time that 1998 case was decided, was appointed to a Lee County judgeship by Governor Fob James.

Walker has been on the bench ever since, earning re-election most recently in 2010. The firm that once bore his name has morphed into--you guessed it--Adams White Oliver Short and Forbus. In fact, the firm has the same address it had back in the '90s--205 S 9th St, Opelika, AL 36801.

A brief history on the firm's Web site indicates that address has been home to what should be called "The Walker Law Firm" since the 1940s. Photographs on the Web show that the firm is housed in The Walker Building.

How did Jacob Walker III land such a pre-eminent place in the legal stratosphere of east Alabama? He did it the old-fashioned way--he was born into privilege. From the firm history:

Adams White Oliver Short & Forbus can trace its roots to the law practice of Jacob Walker, Sr. Jacob Walker, Sr. graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute, what is now Auburn University, in 1908 and then attended the University of Chicago Law School. After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, Mr. Walker, a native of Alexander City, returned to his home town to practice law. In 1915, Mr. Walker moved his young law practice from Alexander City, Alabama to Opelika, Alabama and began practicing law with Reid Barnes. In the late 1930's, Mr. Walker bought a vacant lot next to the Lee County Courthouse and in 1940 constructed a building to house his law practice. In the newspaper article announcing the construction of the office building by Mr. Walker, it was reported that the “blue prints of the new Walker Building indicate that Opelika will have one of its handsomest business structures” in the region and that the plans for the interior were of the “very latest designs for the elegant furnishings to be arranged.” The article continued to explain that the building “will be strikingly beautiful, one of the finest designs of any building in the city. When completed, this will make a wonderful improvement in the courthouse block. ”

In 1948, Mr. Walker was joined in the practice of law by his son, Jacob Walker, Jr., and they began practicing law under the name of Walker & Walker. Phil Adams joined the firm in 1969 and continued to practice law with Jacob Walker, Jr. until Jacob’s retirement in December of 2001. Over the years the firm changed its name but its members continue to practice in the same “strikingly beautiful” Opelika location.

So, let's follow the family trail: Jacob Walker Sr. started a law firm that has held several names over the years; his son, Jacob Walker Jr., joined the practice in 1948; and Walker Jr.'s son, Jacob Walker III, eventually joined the firm and was lead partner until Governor Fob James (a close friend of Jacob Walker Jr.) appointed him to a judgeship.

The current incarnation of the firm is called Adams White Oliver Short and Forbus. And two of its lawyers are trying to keep Mike Hubbard from becoming overly familiar with the Alabama correctional system.

Those two lawyers are practicing before a judge--Jacob A Walker III--whose roots run about as deep as possible in their firm.

Could that be an advantage for the Adams White firm? Could it help keep Mike Hubbard out of prison? Does it represent a glaring conflict for Judge Jacob A. Walker III? Where does Baron Coleman's affidavit fit into this picture?

The answer to those questions appears to be yes. But these might be the most interesting questions of all: Are prosecutors in the Hubbard case aware of Judge Walker's background and his monumental conflict? It's hard to imagine that they aren't.

If that's the case, why haven't they filed a motion for Walker's recusal? And where does Baron Coleman's affidavit fit into this picture?

How are prosecutors serving the public interest if they allow a clearly compromised judge to hear a profoundly important criminal case?

That probably is the most powerful question of all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Is Baron Coleman's affidavit about the Mike Hubbard investigation a signal that political and legal skulduggery in Alabama has reached an all-time low?

Baron Coleman
(From spotonstrategiesgroup.com)
The last thing Alabama needs is another slimy political operative. We already have so many it's as if the state raises them in industrial-sized ponds, like catfish. Perhaps specius politicus slimeballius should be designated the Official State Bottom Feeder.

Now, it appears Montgomery-based G. Baron Coleman has added to our list of political hacks. As a lawyer, conservative talk-show host, and political consultant, you might say Coleman is a "triple threat" bottom feeder. He is a partner in Spot On Strategies Group, whatever that is.

Actually, we've seen signs before that Coleman is a sketchy character, and we've reported on the subject several times. (See here, here, and here.) But his latest tactic is a real jaw-dropper.

Coleman has been a consistent critic of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), who faces 23 counts of felony ethics violations, with a trial date set for March 28. But Hubbard defense lawyers filed a motion dated February 2, and it included an affidavit from Coleman in which he claims to have had 50 to 100 conversations with prosecutor Matt Hart about the investigation and grand-jury activities. (See full motion at the end of this post.)

Coleman admits to activities that are so low they almost make us feel sorry for Mike Hubbard--and I didn't think that was possible.

Hubbard's lawyers argue that the Coleman affidavit proves prosecutors have leaked confidential and privileged information to the media in an effort to destroy the Speaker. They further argue that Hart has perpetrated a fraud on the court and engaged in misconduct that should cause the charges against Hubbard to be dropped.

Circuit Judge Jacob Walker has set a hearing for February 10 to consider charges of prosecutorial misconduct.

Why is the Coleman affidavit such a shocker? For one thing, Coleman never has shown signs of being a Hubbard fan. In a March 2015 column at Alabama Political Reporter (APR), Coleman essentially said Hubbard was a liar, driven by envy and anger. Hubbard was particularly incensed, Coleman wrote, that former Governor Bob Riley seemingly was making millions off Hubbard's reign as Speaker--while Hubbard made do with a relatively paltry salary as a "public servant."

From Coleman's column, which portrayed Hubbard in an extremely unflattering light:

Riley was making what many speculate was millions of dollars off of Hubbard’s time as Speaker, and Hubbard was left with his $70,000 a year Speaker’s salary, his wife’s $145,000 a year job at Auburn University, and an ultimatum from Hubbard’s employer IMG that he either leave politics or lose his job.

That is why Hubbard initially dropped hints and later seethed with rage about his finances. That is why Hubbard repeatedly asked if there was a way he could come work for Bob Riley and Associates. That is why Hubbard threatened to quit and walk away from politics if he couldn’t come up with a way to make more money.

He wasn’t broke. That was a lie. Hubbard’s August 2012 financial statement states Hubbard had a net worth of close to $7.8 million and liabilities of only about $600,000. It is irrational to conclude that with a $7.8 million net worth and a bare minimum of $215,000 a year in combined tax-payer funded salary between Hubbard and his wife, he would need to harass the rich and powerful with requests for business opportunities to avoid financial ruin.

Hubbard’s bizarre behavior was not motivated by greed or poverty; it was motivated by anger and envy.

Second, the affidavit comes from the same Baron Coleman whom Hubbard lawyers sought to subpoena last fall. In a carefully worded motion to quash the subpoena, Coleman more or less said he knew nothing that would help Hubbard's case and called the lawyers' actions an "impermissible and improper fishing expedition."

This is the same guy who now seems to know a lot that could help Hubbard's case and even welcomes the chance to become part of a "fishing expedition," such as an evidentiary hearing focused on Matt Hart? What happened between last September and now to change Baron Coleman's mind so radically? A reasonable person might ask: Was Baron Coleman lying then or is he lying now?

APR Publisher Bill Britt, who has given Coleman space in the publication and had him as a panelist on The Voice of Alabama Politics, is among many Alabama political observers who now are scratching their heads. From a Britt column on the subject:

On February 2, Coleman claimed he had between 50 and 100 conversations with Matt Hart, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Unit. “These conversations were in reference to the Mike Hubbard investigation, and the Lee County Special Grand Jury,” Coleman said in his sworn statement to the court.

Coleman was subpoenaed to testify at the first evidentiary hearing Judge Waker ordered on prosecutorial misconduct on October 26, 2015. In his motion to quash, Coleman said he had nothing to testify to and referred to his subpoena as “nothing more than an impermissible, improper fishing expedition.”

In his motion, Coleman stated to the court, . . . "the Defendant has no basis to know what testimony Coleman could provide. Thus, the Defendants’ subpoena is nothing more than an impermissible and improper fishing expedition designed to get around the rules of discovery in his criminal trial.”

What might be driving Coleman's about-face? Britt attempts to provide some insight on a murky situation:

For over two years, Coleman has been a fierce critic of Hubbard in his writings, on radio, and TV, and a staunch defender of Hart, and the prosecution. Coleman’s perceived turnabout has sent tongues wagging around, not only the State House, but around the entire State.

In his affidavit, he alleges Hart threatened to bring him before a grand jury after it was rumored he had passed along information he claims he received from Hart, to his former law partner, then Rep. Joe Hubbard (D-Montgomery). He claims he came forward, in part, because he was “recently contacted by law enforcement, and met with them in reference to how and why I received grand jury information from the Lee County Special Grand Jury, and with regard to the conduct of Matt Hart in the Hubbard case.”

Coleman’s statements have been welcomed by the Hubbard camp, while he has been roundly denounced by others.

What were Coleman's really dirty actions against Hubbard? That involves the 2014 GOP primary, in which Coleman worked for Sandy Toomer, Hubbard's opponent. Coleman said he used information from Hart to generate a "whisper campaign" against Hubbard. What were the whispers about? That remains unknown.

But they didn't work because Hubbard won handily. Here is the bigger question: Who does Baron Coleman think he is--Karl Rove?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Peyton Manning surely is pleased to have earned a second Super Bowl Ring, but I was thrilled to watch the game from home and not from an Alabama jail cell

Peyton Manning
(From bleacherreport.com)
Probably no one enjoyed last night's Super Bowl 50 more than Peyton Manning. The 39-year-old quarterback overcame serious injuries to his foot and neck, plus a string of disappointing post-season finishes, to guide the Denver Broncos to a 24-10 victory over the favored Carolina Panthers. If Manning, as expected, now retires--he has a hip that likely will need replacement in the not-too-distant future--he will close out a Hall of Fame career with a second Super Bowl championship and a bushelful of records that aren't likely to be broken any time soon.

That's a lot to be pleased about. But if Manning was No. 1 on the happy meter during last night's game, I might have been a fairly close second.

Why? Well, I was able to watch the game from the comfort of our home--or at least from the pay-by-the-week motel that currently serves as our "home" in the Missouri Ozarks. The last time Denver played in the Super Bowl--at the end of the 2013 season--I watched it from the "cozy confines" of the Shelby County Jail in Columbiana, Alabama.

What was a guy, who (best I can recall) does not even have a speeding ticket on his record, doing in jail? Well, I had committed the "crime" of writing a blog about legal and political corruption in Alabama--especially the kind that white, male elites have used to help turn a beautiful, high-potential state into a low-production backwater. Rob Riley, the attorney son of former GOP governor Bob Riley, has benefited mightily from Alabama's dysfunctional environment, so he filed a defamation lawsuit designed to shut me down.

I challenged the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds, due to unlawful service, and was set to then pursue First Amendment issues, when deputy Chris Blevins entered our home on October 23, 2013--without showing a warrant or stating that he had one--and I was assaulted (knocked to a concrete basement floor three times), doused with pepper spray, handcuffed, and hauled to jail in the back of a squad car.

My apparent infraction? Contempt of court for failure to remove certain items about Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke from this blog--even though those items, by law, had never been found to be false or defamatory. In fact, they still--to this day--have never been found to be false or defamatory, under the law, by a jury. But I spent more than five months in jail anyway--finally earning my release on March 26, 2014.

My mugshot after being roughed up by an Alabama cop
Rob Riley and his father's corrupt political machine are the reasons I watched Super Bowl 48 (XLVIII) from jail on February 2, 2014. What do I remember about that experience?

First, I learned quickly that perhaps the biggest challenge of jail is figuring out how to pass the time. Jails, unlike prisons, are not designed to hold people for very long, so that means there are almost no semi-useful ways to spend your time--no library, no computers, no real recreational opportunities. Your options are pretty much TV (a show not of your choosing, with the volume at ear-splitting levels), eating, sleeping, TV, showering, walking in circles, playing cards, getting into a fight over the TV (or the phones), or TV.

I met probably a couple of dozen guys in jail who also had spent time in prison. Each one said he would much rather be in prison than in jail.

I was excited about Super Bowl 48 for two reasons: (1) All the inmates seemed to agree that was the show to watch, so there were no arguments about the merits of American Idol vs. Housewives of Atlanta; (2) Because of  all the commercials and the "halftime spectacular," Super Bowls usually are interminable, taking four to five hours to finish--not counting the hours of pre-game hype.

"Gee, this will be a great way to kill time," I thought. "And since neither Alabama nor Auburn is involved, that reduces the chance for harsh words and possible brawls. Peyton Manning is getting old, so maybe I can sit back and enjoy watching him try to nail down a second Super Bowl before he rides off into the Denver sunset."

What happened? Seattle's defense suffocated Manning and the favored Broncos, jumping to a 22-0 halftime lead. The lead eventually grew to 36-0 before the Seahawks finished off a 43-8 rout, in one of the most lopsided Super Bowls ever.

So much for my dream of having an entertaining way to kill four or five hours in jail. The game was worth watching for little more than an hour. After that, I gave up on hoping Manning could penetrate the Seattle defense and laid down on my bunk, staring at the bunk above me.

Even in our current spartan accommodations--Carol and I have come to call it "The Shiftless Drifters Motel"--watching last night's game was an utter joy, compared to my jail experience of two years ago.

Denver's defense, led by Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, was impenetrable this time. In fact, the Broncos more or less did to Carolina's Cam Newton what Seattle did to Manning two years ago.

My appreciation for being able to watch the Super Bowl in a state of freedom was not the only reason I was hyped about last night's game. As usual, the state of Alabama was well represented in the game, with eight players who call our state home. The only states with more players--California (24), Texas (14), Georgia (13), Florida (12), and Ohio (10)--have significantly larger populations than Alabama. On a per-capita basis, Alabama had more players in Super Bowl 50 than any other state.

In fact, I even feel a certain kinship with one of the players from Alabama--a quarterback who was one of the most exciting college players I've ever seen live. You might assume I'm talking about Cam Newton, who won the Heisman Trophy while playing at Auburn. But I'm actually thinking of Joe Webb, who played quarterback (and wide receiver) at UAB, and now serves on special teams for Carolina. In fact, he returned one kickoff for 24 yards in last night's game.

The 6-4, 235-pound Webb is from Birmingham, flew under the major recruiting radar, and developed into a dynamic run-pass quarterback threat for UAB. I've seen some awfully good football players live--Bo Jackson, Herschel Walker, Ozzie Newsome, and many more--but Joe Webb will always be one of my favorites. Plus, I got to interview Webb several times, and he always seemed to be a thoughtful, likable guy. In the right offensive system, I still think he could be a standout in the NFL.

A second mugshot, after I had been transferred to the
Jefferson County Jail and back--and after I had lost about
25 pounds. The Jail Weight-Loss Plan? I don't
recommend it. As you can see, this image still is out there
at jailbase.com. Considering there were no lawful
grounds for me to be in jail, this picture is the
defamation that keeps on giving.
Joe Webb and Cam Newton are in their 20s and still have plenty of time to win a Super Bowl. But last night belonged to Peyton Manning and Denver. And that could not help but remind me of my experience of watching the Super Bowl from jail.

According to my fellow inmates, there was at least one guy in our 64-man unit who had done time for murder. He apparently had served his prison sentence for that and was in the Shelby County Jail for a lesser offense. Most of the guys I met in jail were in for probation violations (usually related to alcohol), drug offenses (marijuana, meth, heroin--in that order), DUI, domestic violence, and such.

The really bad dudes--alleged murderers, rapists, child molesters, etc.--were in the unit next to ours. Thankfully, there was a nice thick wall between us and them.

I'm quite sure I was the only person in the jail--at that time, or any other time--who had been arrested for blogging.

Do I have memories of my jail time--or have I tried to block it out, as if it never happened? Oh, I definitely have memories. For one, the vast majority of the inmates were pleasant and likable guys, at least to me, and some of them were uber funny. I really would like to see some of them again, but it seems that once you get out of jail, the thought of seeing those people again is troubling--even if you like them.

I'll never forget the inmate who committed suicide just a few feet from me. And during Super Bowl 48, I distinctly remember thinking, "I can't believe I'm watching the Super Bowl, with a convicted murderer right over there."

The murderer actually seemed like a pretty nice guy. But still, it sure was nice to watch last night's game with Carol. I might not have been as happy as Peyton Manning, but it was pretty darned close.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Marco Rubio, with a curious late-night arrest in his background, was a "very extroverted homosexual" in high school and college, according to new report

Marco Rubio, as part of a Chippendales/Village People
dance troupe
(From Wayne Madsen Report)

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio was known to be a "very extroverted homosexual" in high school and college, according to a new report. Rubio has a curious arrest in his background, which has been reported in the mainstream press but has largely been brushed off by his campaign staff. A close Rubio friend, even now, is involved in the gay-pornography business.

Wayne Madsen, an investigative journalist based in Washington, D.C., reports that Republican insiders have said Rubio did little to hide his homosexuality while in high school at South Beach Miami and at the University of Florida.

The Wayne Madsen Reporter (WMR) is a subscription Web site, but we have received permission to report certain items from the site. The full Rubio article, dated January 29-31, can be read at the bottom of this post. The story involves Rubio's 1990 arrest at a park known as a gay pick-up spot, an event his campaign has tried to keep under wraps. From the Madsen piece:

In 1989, a year before Rubio was arrested with his friend Angel Barrios and another unidentified male friend in Alice Wainwright Park in south Miami, ostensibly for drinking beer in a car after closing time in a park known as a pickup locale for gays, Rubio sang and danced in a South Miami High School troupe. The song and dance troupe was based on the Chippendales but with a very gay theme: half Chippendales and half Village People. Rubio omitted his participation in the dance troupe in his biography, "American Son."

Rubio's college career got off to a rocky start, so he apparently turned to other not-so-savory activities, with ties to drugs and gay porn. Reports Madsen:

After flunking out of Tarkio College in Missouri, Rubio returned to Miami where he hung around with his old high school friend Barrios. Barrios started an on-line gay porn business called Flava Works, which is still in business today live streaming sexual acts between black and Latino men.

In order to prepare for the University of Florida, Rubio attended Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville. Republican sources have told WMR that Rubio, Barrios, and two other students shared a townhouse in Gainesville that was known locally as a "coke house," where cocaine was readily available, as were almost non-stop parties in what amounted to an off-campus gay frat house. In 1987, Rubio's brother-in-law, Orlando Cicilia, was busted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for his role as a key figure in a cocaine smuggling ring in south Florida.

A photo has surfaced of a man who looks like Rubio at a 1995 "foam party" in South Beach. Rubio claims to have met his wife, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, at such an event, but Madsen says that story doesn't add up:

A man believed to be Marco Rubio at a South Beach
"Foam Party" in 1995
(From Wayne Madsen Report)
After graduating from the University of Florida, Rubio attended the University of Miami Law School. In 1995, Rubio claims he met his wife, Miami Dolphins cheerleader Jeanette Dousdebes at a "foam party" in South Beach. There is one thing wrong with Rubio's story: foam parties in South Beach were almost exclusively gay events held at gay clubs like "Warsaw Ballroom" and "Amnesia," the latter name befitting some of Rubio's memories of his time in Miami. The following is a description of foam parties in a Miami New Times article by reporter Steven Almond, titled "Foam Sex," published in the June 8, 1995 issue:

"The scene generally features several hundred scantily clad bodies packed onto a dance floor and writhing to bone-rattling music under strobes and colored lights. Nothing new, right? Until suds come gushing out of a machine suspended over the dance floor. As if on cue, various forms of passionate embrace begin. Kissing. Petting. Rubbing. Because the foam froths up waist high, it acts both as a lubricant and camouflage. Mutual masturbation is an occasional component, generally beneath the cover of foam. As the evening wears on, a few men pair off and sit together in the foam that builds up outside the partitioned-off area."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hartselle, Alabama, mayor Don Hall, who resigned even though he denied using Ashley Madison, actually did use the marital-cheating site, records show

Don Hall, former mayor of Hartselle, Alabama
(From hartselle.org)
An Alabama mayor who resigned from office, even though he denied using the Ashley Madison Web site, actually did use the extramarital-affair site, records show.

Don Hall's resignation as mayor of Hartselle, Alabama, took effect on November 30, 2015. The Hartselle City Council accepted Hall's resignation on August 28 and granted him a leave of absence until he officially left office. According to a report at al.com, Hall denied using Ashley Madison. but our research shows he spent more than $400 at the site.

Here is how the Washington Times reported on Hall's decision to step down":

Local news outlets report that Hall resigned one day after city officials scheduled a meeting to consider what actions they could take after his name appeared on a list linked to the website intended to facilitate cheating. Hall denied using the website and said he doesn’t know how his name got on the list. Hall said he performed all his duties as mayor and would step down because he believed it was best for the city.

Our research indicates Hall has every reason to know how his name got on the list. That's because his credit-card information is present, and it shows seven transactions, totaling $467.14. (See summary of Don Hall's Ashley Madison account at the end of this post.)

Here's how Hall described himself on the site:

Looking for that special person who is not afraid to step out side the box and develop a special discreet friendship. Would love to find someone that would like to share some special time together, not just a one time only . . .

The billing address on the account is as follows:

1803 Hayes St SW Hartselle, AL 35640

That's the same address listed on the Web for the Don Hall for Mayor campaign, which was established in 2012.

Hall has company when it comes to politicians caught in Ashley Madison scandal. The Washington Post reported last August on at least four such cases. Here is al.com's summary of the Post's findings:

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported the names of other political and public officials whose names were included in the Ashley Madison leak, including Florida state prosecutor Jeff Ashton, Louisiana Republican Party Executive Director Jason Doré, Australian City Councilman Craig Ogilvie and Baton Rouge, La., City Councilman Ryan Heck.

The Washington Post story was published just a few days after the Ashley Madison story broke, and the actual number of political figures on the site probably is several thousand times higher than the five we've highlighted above.

(Note: The summary below lists Hall's account-creation date as 4/22/15, but it shows payments from 2010, 2012, and 2013. Our technical sources said quite a few Ashley Madison customers had more than one account, and that probably explains the date discrepancies in the Hall summary.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ted Cruz wins Iowa caucuses with anti-gay rhetoric that appeals to evangelicals, but his campaign is fueled, in part, by gay financiers from New York City

Ted Cruz and gay real-estate executive Mati Weiderpass
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses last night, in part by using anti-gay rhetoric to appeal to Christian evangelical voters. But Cruz's campaign is fueled, to a significant extent, by gay financiers from New York, according to a new report.

Wayne Madsen, an investigative journalist based in Washington, D.C., reports that Cruz's run the the White House appears to be driven by stunning hypocrisy. Cruz questioned Donald Trump's "New York values" and has consistently condemned homosexuality. But the Cruz campaign seems to have a fondness for New York and the financial support of homosexuals.

Can this story get any more curious? Yes, it can. A dead body was found a few months ago at a luxury Central Park townhouse that was the site for a Cruz fundraiser.

The Wayne Madsen Reporter (WMR) is a subscription Web site, but we have received permission to report certain items from the site. The full Cruz article, dated February 1-2, can be read at the bottom of this post. Here's how Madsen sets it up, providing insight into a powerful group of gay money men known as the "Lavender Mafia":

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio appear to have more things in common than merely their Cuban heritage. After Donald Trump launched a blistering attack on GOP presidential hopeful Cruz, Cruz responded by questioning Trump's "New York values." Trump cautioned Cruz by saying that while the junior senator from Texas claimed he did not care for New York values, he certainly was willing to accept New York campaign contributions. An examination of Cruz's financial support from New York yields close connections between the Christian evangelical, who has condemned homosexuality as a sin, and some of New York's top gay financiers and real estate moguls, all of whom are also major supporters of Israel. And one other "problem" for Cruz: there is a dead body involved.

After staking his political career on bashing equal rights for gays, including pushing for a constitutional amendment allowing states to ban gay marriage, on April 20, 2015, Cruz and his wife Heidi, a Goldman Sachs executive, were feted at a reception at the 230 Central Park South mega-townhouse of one of Manhattan's most well-known gay entrepreneurs, Ian Reisner, who was joined by his one-time partner, Mati Weiderpass. Reisner is a co-founder of Parkview Developers and a former managing director of the Bank of America and derivatives trader for Salomon Brothers. Weiderpass is a military veteran and former marketing manager for Swatch. At the reception, Reisner, who, as of last year, was a registered Republican, handed Cruz a check for $2700, the maximum amount permitted under federal election law. Reisner and Weiderpass previously donated to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. Among Reisner's and Weiderpass's circle of friends is Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee chairman who is also gay.

The mid-town reception was not the only Cruz connection to New York's Wall Street gay community. Cruz has stated that openly-gay San Francisco investor Peter Thiel, is a good friend of his. Other gay New York businessmen also attended the political bash at the Reisner townhouse.

How does the dead body come into play? Madsen explains:

Six months [before the fundraiser], a 23-year old bar manager named Sean Verdi had been found unconscious in a bathtub in Reisner's townhouse, the very same private apartment where the Cruz reception was held. Verdi's social media pages referred to his fondness for parties in New York and Florida.

A half hour after emergency medical personnel arrived at Reisner's residence, Verdi was pronounced dead, reportedly from a drug overdose of a combination of cocaine and Ecstasy. The New York City medical examiner later concluded that Verdi died from acute intoxication from the ingestion of alcohol, ketamine, MDMA [Ecstasy], and ethylone. Reisner and Verdi, along with two other men, left the Bar-Tini Ultra Lounge in Hell's Kitchen, where Verdi served as manager, on the evening of October 29, 2014, for Reisner's townhouse. After Verdi became sick, Reisner claimed he put Verdi into the shower and then into the bathtub, where he was later found unconscious the next morning. The incident was publicized in the New York media, however, Cruz and his wife still agreed to attend a political reception at a location where an extremely suspicious incident had taken place a half-year earlier. After Verdi's death, Bar-Tini went out of business.

The financial support of Cruz did not sit well with many influential New York gays, who tend to be liberal. Writes Madsen:

After liberal gays found out about the Cruz reception, they immediately castigated Reisner and Weiderpass, even organizing a boycott of their gay-oriented businesses, which include the "Out NYC" hotel in Hell's Kitchen and the Pavilion nightclub and Sip-n-Twirl bar, both gay entertainment locales; the Blue Whale restaurant; and the Botel hotel in Fire Island Pines on Long Island. The Fire Island resort has been a longtime center for the production of gay porn and drag queen shows. Reisner's liaison to the Fire Island business community is Omar Sharif, Jr., the gay grandson of the late Egyptian actor. Reisner's plans include opening an Out Hotel in Chicago in Boy's Town, the gay entertainment district that, in the past, attracted such notable politicians as former GOP Representative Aaron Schock, then-congressman Rahm Emanuel, and an Illinois state senator named Barack Obama.

After being taken to task by New York's powerful and liberal gay community for hosting Cruz, Reisner defended the reception by claiming it was to thank Cruz for his unwavering support for Israel. The reception for Cruz was not Reisner's only fundraiser for an anti-gay Republican. The real estate magnate had also hosted a reception for Wisconsin's anti-gay GOP senator Ron Johnson. New York's politically-active gay community is sometimes called the "Lavender Mafia," because of their power and influence. While most of this mafia is liberal, there are those who support conservative causes and candidates. Former Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry, who recently endorsed Cruz, was involved with Texas's influential conservative Lavender Mafia and, as WMR previously reported, Perry himself is a member of that same grouping of conservative but closeted gay politicians.

Monday, February 1, 2016

U.S. judge Myron Thompson agrees with us that jury instructions for bribery, as in the case of ex Alabama governor Don Siegelman, are an unwieldy mess

U.S. Judge Myron Thompson
Former federal prosecutor Stephen Feaga, in a recent op-ed piece for the Montgomery Advertiser, tried to convince the public that jury instructions in the Don Siegelman case were correct. We have shown that Feaga's claim is wildly off target, and a judge who has served on the federal bench in Alabama for 35 years agrees with us.

Myron Thompson, nominated by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, wrote in a 2012 opinion that jury instructions in federal bribery cases long have been filled with murky, inexact, confusing language. Thompson, writing in an opinion for the Alabama bingo trial (U.S. v. Milton E. McGregor, et al), said the problem goes beyond the case that sent Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy to prison. Thompson said federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court have for years done a poor job of defining the line that marks legal and illegal transactions between public officials and campaign donors.

Thompson offered the jury instructions he crafted for the bingo case, which resulted in zero convictions, as an example of what should be consistently used across the country. Thompson even called on the nation's highest court to clarify the law, perhaps by using his suggested instructions.

It's now roughly three years later, and we've seen no clarity from the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Siegelman remains in federal prison for "crimes" that might exist under the flawed jury instructions of former federal judge Mark Fuller--but do not exist under the actual law.

Why is this issue profoundly important? Because we have a political system that relies on campaign contributions--and First Amendment law that guarantees donors the right to support the candidate of their choosing. This is how we explained it in a July 2012 post about Thompson's opinion:

In fact, public records show that the federal bingo trial resulted in no convictions mainly because Thompson presented clear, detailed jury instructions that dovetail with actual law.

It's not, of course, that public officials accused of bribery, extortion, and the like always should go free. But the standards for convictions in the context of campaign contributions, Thompson writes, must be strict so as not to conflict with First Amendment guarantees. Courts, however, have repeatedly used poorly defined terms that make it impossible for public officials, campaign donors, and the public to understand the line between lawful conduct and a federal crime.

How would Thompson help clear up a messy situation? From our 2012 post:

In his opinion, Thompson cites the jury instruction he used in the Alabama bingo trial and shows how it fits with, and illuminates, the case law that has come to govern such issues. Here is the key component of the jury instruction Thompson says should be used consistently in public-corruption cases. It focuses on the definition of a "quid pro quo" (this for that), which must be present under the law for actions to be criminal:

"Therefore, the solicitation or acceptance by an elected official of a campaign contribution does not, in itself, constitute a federal crime, even though the donor has business pending before the official, and even if the contribution is made shortly before or after the official acts favorably to the donor.

"However, when there is a quid pro quo agreement, orally or in writing, that is, a mutual understanding, between the donor and the elected official that a campaign contribution is conditioned on the performance of a specific official action, it constitutes a bribe under federal law. By this phrase, I mean that a generalized expectation of some future favorable action is not sufficient for a quid pro quo agreement; rather, the agreement must be one that the campaign contribution will be given in exchange for the official agreeing to take or forgo some specific action in order for the agreement to be criminal. A close-in-time relationship between the donation and the act is not enough to establish an illegal agreement."

Fuller's jury instruction in the Siegelman case fell woefully short of the kind of clarity Thompson seeks. Here is how we have described it:

Fuller's jury instruction did not require an explicit agreement as outlined in McCormick, much less one that had to be stated orally or in writing. Fuller let the jury believe that an agreement could be implied or inferred. The Eleventh Circuit inexplicably allowed the unlawful jury instruction to stand--and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the matter.

Appellate courts simply have not done their jobs on the Siegelman case, causing a massive misuse of public funds that should draw Congressional review.

How badly have the nation's highest courts botched this issue, which can (and has) sent innocent individuals to prison?

Consider the Eleventh Circuit: Its own rules (Rule 35, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure) state that the purpose of en banc review is "to secure or maintain uniformity of the court's decisions" or to address panel decisions that are in "direct conflict with precedent of the Supreme Court or of this circuit." The three-judge panel's ruling in Siegelman clearly conflicts with McCormick, it conflicts with the circuit's own findings in U.S. v. Davis, 30 F.3d 108 (11th Cir., 1994), and it destroys any semblance of uniformity on the pertinent law. But the full Eleventh Circuit declined review.

Consider the nation's highest court: U.S. Supreme Court Rule 10 states that certiorari review is properly considered when "a United States court of appeals has entered a decision in conflict with the decision of another United States court of appeals on the same important matter." The Eleventh Circuit's finding in Siegelman conflicts with McCormick, with Davis, and with similar rulings in other circuits. So why did the Supreme Court punt on Siegelman? To be sure, certiorari review is at the court's discretion; it's not a matter of right. But perhaps we no longer need a Supreme Court if it is not going to hear critically important cases that so clearly meet its own criteria.

Thompson nails the key issue with this paragraph from his bingo opinion:

It is often true that “unexamined assumptions have a way of becoming, by force of usage, unsound law." McCormick, 500 U.S. at 280 (Scalia, J., concurring). In the public-corruption context, courts have been particularly lax in the use of certain words–-explicit, express, agreement, promise, and quid pro quo-–that should have clear legal meanings. Imprecise diction has caused considerable confusion over the scope of federal corruption laws as applied to campaign contributions. Uncertainty in this area of law breeds corruption and chills legitimate political speech.

To what kind of "corruption" is Thompson referring? It's not absolutely clear, but I believe he's saying that confusing language in the law encourages prosecutors to bring dubious charges and judges to give jury instructions that can lead to bogus convictions. No other reference to corruption makes sense in Thompson's statement. I believe he is pointing squarely at prosecutorial and judicial corruption--and perhaps dishonest political figures (can we say "Karl Rove"?) who might push like-minded prosecutors to use flawed law to take out enemies on the other side of the political fence.

Steve Feaga wants us to believe everything was fine and dandy with the jury instructions in the Siegelman case. Informed Americans should not buy it. And a federal judge with 35 years of experience provides a detailed explanation of why the law, in its current state, is so bad--and so dangerous to our political process.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Laquan McDonald and my wife, Carol, played central roles in showing the public that police charges of "assaulting an officer" can be complete fabrications

The shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago
Laquan McDonald and Carol Tovich Shuler had very little in common, but they helped show the public that police officers are prone to falsely allege that a citizen has assaulted an officer--especially when the cops know they have engaged in, or witnessed, misconduct.

McDonald, a 17-year-old black male, died in 2014 when a Chicago police officer shot him 16 times--even though video now shows that McDonald was moving away from officers, not toward them, at the time he was shot. Police apparently wanted him for questioning about a series of car break-ins.

Shuler, my wife of 26 years, is a 56-year-old white female with a spotless personal and professional record--except for one or two bogus black marks that political forces in Alabama caused because she was married to a journalist/blogger who reported uncomfortable truths about the state's ruling elites. Shuler was valedictorian of her high-school class and made straight A's throughout college.

Not exactly the type to be assaulting a police officer--and that's because she didn't. But then, neither did Laquan McDonald.

Carol Shuler, thankfully, survived her encounter with rogue cops. Deputies from the Greene County Sheriff's Department--about six of them, plus Sheriff Jim Arnott himself--were on hand when at least three of them surrounded Carol and brutalized her during an unlawful eviction, leaving her with a shattered left arm and heavy bruising. With the help of intense physical therapy, she is recovering, but caregivers have said her injury was so severe that she probably will regain only 75 percent usage of her left arm, at best.

Laquan McDonald did not survive--his life snuffed out much too soon, in a hail of police gunfire. But here perhaps is the thing Laquan McDonald and Carol Shuler most had in common. Cops on the scene, apparently aware that citizens had been the victims of gross police misconduct, immediately concocted bogus narratives of "assaulting a police officer."

Consider, for example, the behavior of Jim Arnott. Here's how we spelled it out in a post titled "Missouri Sheriff Jim Arnott shows that his immediate tendency is to lie when confronted with police brutality." From that post:

Carol was trying to enter our apartment to retrieve some of our belongings, as she had been told she could do. Specifically, she was trying to get our cat's litter box and was headed to the front door for that purpose, when a deputy jumped her. I saw the whole thing from about 15 feet away, while seated in the driver's seat of our automobile, which was parked in the driveway. Arnott saw it from a vantage point about 10 feet closer than mine.

And what was the sheriff's immediate reaction to seeing one of his deputies brutalizing a 55-year-old woman who was trying to get her cat's "latrine"? Arnott's response was to lie. He pointed at Carol and said, "She assaulted a police officer."

That statement is absurd to anyone who witnessed the event. And it's even more absurd when you consider that Carol wound up with a severely broken arm that required surgery, and there is no indication that any of the half dozen or so officers on hand--armed with at least one assault rifle and numerous handguns--suffered the slightest scratch.

What are the implications of having a sheriff make such bogus claims against you? Well, it goes way beyond a mere inconvenience, as we described earlier:

Because of Arnott's lying eyes--and lying tongue--(Carol) apparently was going to be charged with assaulting a police officer. The deputy who drove her to the jail told her she was facing a felony and likely a $100,000 bond.
At some point, Carol (likely in shock; she would receive treatment with oxygen) announced that her arm was killing her. Someone finally took notice, decided this might be serious, and had her transported to Cox North Medical Center, a few blocks from the jail.

That's where X-rays showed Carol's arm was broken so badly that it would require a trauma surgeon, not an orthopedist, to repair it. She now has roughly 10 screws and multiple titanium plates that probably will stay in her arm as long as she lives. But Jim Arnott's immediate reaction, upon seeing his officers assault Carol, was to claim she had assaulted them.

Carol Shuler
Hundreds of pages of documents released in early December show that Chicago cops concocted a false "assaulting an officer" claim against McDonald, much like the one Arnott created on the spot against Carol. This is from a Chicago Tribune report about documents in the McDonald case, much of them coming from the Chicago PD's internal investigation:

In December 2014, the department officially recorded the shooting as a justifiable homicide.

"McDonald committed aggravated assault against the three officers, finally forcing Officer Van Dyke, in defense of his life, to shoot and kill McDonald," according to a report of that determination.

One report claims McDonald "battered" three officers. Another claims that Officer Jason Van Dyke, who fired the 16 shots, was "injured." From the Tribune article:

Again and again in reports, Van Dyke's account is supported by the other officers at the scene, each one describing the teen as a threat to the veteran cop. Four officers claimed that McDonald advanced toward Van Dyke, even though the video shows him walking away. Two others said he turned or raised an arm toward him
How police viewed the shooting, though, was clear. In the report that closed the investigation, filed in March, a detective offered this terse assessment.

"Criminal attacked officer," the report says, "that officer killed criminal."

Chicago cops viewed Laquan McDonald as a thing, a sub-human, one against whom they could easily lie--as proven by video of the shooting below.

Cops in Springfield, Missouri, apparently viewed Carol Shuler the same way. They apparently were not bothered in the least to arrest her, handcuff her, and send her to jail--for a "crime" she did not remotely commit. And if her arm had not been broken, she probably still would be in jail because I could not have possibly paid the $10,000 required for her release.

Much of the reporting on police misconduct has focused on the racial angle--and that's understandable given that black Americans clearly have suffered from cop abuse for decades. But the Laquan and Carol stories provide another side to the issue.

They tell us that cops, when they need to protect one of their own, are willing to look beyond race. When you are abused by a cop, other cops are prepared to lie and heap more abuse on you--without regard for the color of your skin.