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Monday, December 5, 2016

Kansas City "Super Lawyer" Craig O'Dear, of Bryan Cave firm, has plenty to say about our reporting on the Ashley Madison Web site -- and his appearance there

Craig O'Dear
Every subject in our Ashley Madison series has been given at least one opportunity to make a statement or respond to questions prior to publication. Most have passed on that opportunity, but Kansas City "Super Lawyer" Craig O'Dear, of the Bryan Cave firm, opened up about plenty. So did Stephanie O'Dear, his ex wife. Both indicated they reconciled in 2014 and are living together again as a family, although neither specifically said they were remarried.

Here is the full response that Craig O'Dear sent to me via e-mail:

Mr. Shuler:

The article you have drafted and now threaten to publish conveys a false and misleading impression of people about whom you have little knowledge.

Stephanie was and is the love of my life. We were married in 1995, and legally divorced in November 2012. Many years prior to the effective date of our divorce, we ceased to be a married couple, and my marital obligations to Stephanie came to an end. I was not unfaithful in the marriage, and Stephanie never alleged in our divorce proceeding that I had been. Your draft article conveys an impression to the contrary. That impression is false.

Further, I have never at any time in my life been romantically involved with any woman who was married. You draft article conveys a false impression to the contrary on that issue as well by highlighting the marketing tag line for the dating site you reference and implying anyone who might have used it did so for the purpose of engaging in an extramarital affair. The only possible purpose you could have to do this is to publish something you believe will draw traffic to your site, with an intent to embarrass and damage me and Stephanie and our children, both personally and professionally. During this difficult period in my life, whatever social activity I engaged in violated no marital obligations. My focus was being the best father I could be to my children and being the best lawyer I could be practicing law and taking care of my clients. If you took the time to interview anyone who has any personal knowledge of my life, you would know this.

The good news in all of this is that in the Spring of 2014, Stephanie approached me and expressed a desire to re-establish our relationship and reunite our family. Unlike most of the stories of broken marriages, this one has a happy ending. We engaged in a process that achieved our objective, and Stephanie and I are again partners in life, living together with our children, and enjoying the blessing of all that entails. This is yet another point on which your draft article conveys a false and misleading impression, because you know nothing about the people and the family you seek to slander.

I am copying Stephanie on this email. I told her of your communication to me. She has seen your draft "article" and she told me she had some comments to convey to you as well. You should refrain from publishing your false and slanderous "article." If you proceed to publish this false and misleading article, an act which is legally actionable, we insist you publish in full in the same article my response and Stephanie's response, which tells the real story of our lives and corrects the many false impressions your article conveys.

          Craig S. O'Dear

          Sent from my iPhone

Mr. O'Dear makes a number of curious, even alarming, statements. A few such statements require a response from me:

1. I did not "threaten" to publish anything. I said I was going to publish an article on Mr. O'Dear's appearance at Ashley Madison, which he does not deny, and I even sent him a draft to fact-check, comment on, or take questions about. Why does he use the word "threaten"? My best guess is this: Most extortion statutes use some version of the term "threat" or "threaten." Such laws generally govern situations where someone says, "I'm going to publish this unflattering information if you don't do such and such." That is a threat, and nothing like that is present in my communication with Mr. O'Dear. As a "Super Lawyer," he should know that, but he apparently wants to send a not-so-subtle threat himself.

2. O'Dear repeatedly claims my article gives a "false and misleading impression" about him and his family life. He never points out anything that is false, and he apparently is the arbiter of what is, or is not, a "misleading impression." His comment seems to be an attempt to "read into" my article information that is not there.

3. O'Dear claims my article "conveys the impression" that he had been unfaithful in his marriage, even though his wife never alleged that in her divorce proceeding. Well, that's fine, but my article doesn't allege that either. It's curious that O'Dear takes a literal approach to reading his wife's divorce documents, but reads my article based on "impressions" that he pulls out of thin air.

4. O'Dear claims he never has been romantically involved with a married woman, but again, my article never says that he has been. He also says he never engaged in social activity that violated marital obligations. Again, my article doesn't say that he has. O'Dear seems to be focusing on Ashley Madison's motto: "Life is short, have an affair." That is the language the firm has used to differentiate itself from standard dating sites. Ashley Madison developed that language, not I; and the company clearly was targeting those who were at least interested in the possibility of an extramarital affair. That's a marketing decision Ashley Madison made, and Mr. O'Dear fell for, but I was not involved in that process.

5. O'Dear seems to dip into mind-reading when he claims my reporting "will draw traffic to your site, with an intent to embarrass and damage me and Stephanie and our children, both personally and professionally." The truth? I've never said anything in my communications with Mr. O'Dear about blog traffic, embarrassing anyone, or damaging anyone (personally, professionally, or otherwise).

6. I'm pleased the O'Dears have reunited, and that information only came to light because I did legwork -- also known as journalism -- to bring it to light. My original reporting references the reunion, and I address it again here. And yet, O'Dear still claims I am seeking to "slander" his family.

7. O'Dear then refers me to Stephanie O'Dears comments -- which we will share in an upcoming post -- but he warns that I should not publish this "false and slanderous" article, which he deems "legally actionable." That's a clear threat of a lawsuit. As I've stated on this blog several times, all of us are subject to being sued each day, from the moment we wake up until the moment we plop back in bed. I suppose we can be sued while we are asleep, perhaps for "negligent dreaming" or "intentional infliction of dreamy distress." That doesn't mean any old lawsuit is legally actionable, and the filing of baseless lawsuits comes with the possibility of countersuits and sanctions.

Now, let's see what Stephanie O'Dear has to say.

(To be continued)

Here is the only post I've ever let someone talk me into censoring, and it proved to be predictive of the outcome in $3.5 million default-judgment hearing

Don Blankenship
(Last in a two-part series)

Will I ever again let anyone talk me into censoring a post here at Legal Schnauzer? I hope not because the one instance where that happened did not turn out well.

As noted in a recent post, attorney Davy Hay talked me out of publishing a post about a hearing on my motion to vacate Jessica Medeiros Garrison's $3.5-million default judgment. Hay's primary point of concern? He felt the post, published the morning after Hay had argued the motion with Garrison lawyer Bill Baxley, made it look like he could not control his client.

In other words, Hay was concerned that it might hurt Judge Don Blankenship's feelings. As it turned out, Blankenship proved to be a corrupt con man, and we never should have been concerned about his feelings.

The censored post was written almost two months before Blankenship issued his ruling. But it proved to be prescient, accurately showing (if you read between the lines) how Blankenship was likely to rule on almost every key point. When you've been cheated as many times in court as I have, I guess you get pretty good at seeing another cheat job coming.

Here is the one censored post in the history of Legal Schnauzer. Its important because it provides significant insight into the facts and law that should have forced Blankenship to vacate Garrison's $3.5-million. That he didn't rule properly . . . well, it makes him the same as the white, conservative crooks who dominate the Alabama bench. On a positive note, it shows that -- even well in advance -- Blankenship was not fooling me.

Hopefully, there will never be another censored post as long as Legal Schnauzer lives:

June 19, 2015 
Headline: Evidence at yesterday's hearing suggests that Jessica Garrison's $3.5-million default judgment is void
No final order was issued yesterday at a hearing on a motion to vacate a $3.5-million default judgment against me in the Jessica Medeiros Garrison defamation case. But evidence strongly suggests the judgment already is void.

My presence was not required, so I was not at the Jefferson County Courthouse. But my attorney, Davy Hay, provided a general rundown of what took place. Hay and Garrison's lawyer, Bill Baxley, apparently engaged in spirited argument about a number of issues regarding the default judgment, but Hay drove home what might be the single most important argument -- from a simple procedural standpoint, Garrison's default judgment appears to be void.

On top of that, Hay argued, the court incorrectly applied a "private person" status to Garrison, even though she appears to be a public figure who has engaged in high-profile, public matters for roughly a decade. That means the court should have used an "actual malice" standard to address the alleged defamation.

Circuit Judge Don Blankenship has been off the bench recently because of eye surgery, so he conducted the hearing via telephone, with the two lawyers speaking from the courtroom. It's not known when Blankenship will make a ruling.

The hearing raised issues of good faith and fair dealing. Davy Hay filed our Motion to Vacate on April 23, meaning Baxley had eight weeks to file a written response. He filed nothing in writing before the hearing, but he did execute a "mini document dump" of "evidence" that appears to be utterly irrelevant to the Garrison case (more on that in a moment). In essence, our motion was unopposed in writing, and we had no opportunity to prepare for Baxley's "document dump."

What points to Garrison's default judgment being void? The record shows that she filed a Motion for an Order Rendering Judgment by Default on January 6, 2015 (entered on January 7). On January 13, 2015, the court entered an order granting the motion. In between those two dates, there is nothing in the record to show the plaintiff made any effort to notify me of her application for default. (The case docket is embedded at the end of this post.)

As we showed in a recent post, Alabama law requires that the opposing party receive at least three days written notice of a default application and hearing. The law suggests it must be actual notice, with completed service. Here is how we summarized the law:

Despite whatever arguments Baxley comes up with, the facts and law already point to the default judgment being void, based on a case styled Abernathy v. Green Tree Servicing, (Ala. Civ. App., 2010). Abernathy focuses on the notice required for parties seeking default judgments. From the ruling:

"Abernathy contends, among other things, that Green Tree did not provide her with appropriate notice of its November 12, 2009, application for a default judgment and that, as a result, the trial court erred when it entered the November 13, 2009, default judgment. Specifically, she argues that Rule 55(b)(2), Ala. R. Civ. P., required that her attorney be given three days' written notice before the entry of the November 13, 2009, default judgment and that the failure to provide such notice constitutes reversible error. We agree."

The Abernathy case goes on to state that failure to give proper notice "renders the default judgment void" and "requires vacation of the default judgment."

Not only did I not receive notice, the record apparently shows that the plaintiff or her representatives never sent it. Under the law, that should make yesterday's other arguments moot.

As for those other arguments, Attorney Hay said Baxley entered a dozen or more exhibits that purported to show I have an ongoing disregard for the justice system. That's the "'document dump" I referred to earlier. Apparently the exhibits were copies of court orders from other cases, or news reports from other cases; it was hard, Hay said, to tell exactly what they contained. It perhaps is even harder to determine how they are relevant to the Garrison case. Without seeing the exhibits, I can't say much about them. But I can say for certain that any insinuation I have a habit of disregarding the court system is false.

Heck, if anything, the justice system has shown disrespect for me. After all, an Alabama judge (Baxley friend Claud Neilson) essentially ordered me kidnapped, leading to a five-month incarceration that violates more than 200 years of First Amendment law -- and that played a major role in the Garrison-case default judgment, as did a foreclosure (which I believe was wrongful) on our home of 25 years.

The dubious exhibits apparently were the only "hard copy" material Baxley filed with the court. Should the exhibits, which appear to have no connection to the Garrison case, be kicked out as irrelevant? Sure looks that way from here.

The two-pronged "Kirtland" test, which is central to having a default judgment overturned, partly involves a showing of a meritorious defense. The test comes from a case styled Kirtland v. Fort Morgan Authority Sewer Service Inc., 524 So. 2d 600 (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1988)Baxley apparently argued that the defaulting party must submit affidavits or exhibits to show a meritorious defense, but Alabama case law does not appear to say that. From the Kirtland case:

The rationale behind the meritorious-defense requirement is that evidence of a defense indicates that the outcome of the case could be different if it were disposed of by a trial on the merits rather than by a default judgment and, therefore, justifies reopening the case so that justice can be done. . . .

The allegations set forth in the answer and in the motion must be more than mere bare legal conclusions without factual support; they must counter the cause of action averred in the complaint with specificity— namely, by setting forth relevant legal grounds substantiated by a credible factual basis. Such allegations would constitute a "plausible defense."

A case styled Ex parte Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, 514 So. 2d 1283 (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1988) puts it in even simpler terms:

To meet the meritorious-defense element, the movant need not satisfy the trial court that the movant would necessarily prevail at a trial on the merits, only that the movant is prepared to present a plausible defense.

Our Motion to Vacate asserts the ultimate defense in a defamation case -- the truth of my reporting, stating that I stand by my sources and my work. The motion also states that I have evidence, and can obtain additional evidence via discovery, that more than amounts to a "plausible defense."

The first prong of the Kirtland test is perhaps the most important, It states that a trial court must act with an understanding that default judgments are disfavored under the law, and any close call should come down on the side of ordering a trial on the merits:

The Alabama Constitution and our past opinions construing the default judgment rule support the conclusion that the interest in preserving a litigant's right to a trial on the merits is paramount and, therefore, outweighs the interest of promoting judicial economy. We have repeatedly held that the trial court's use of its discretionary authority should be resolved in favor of the defaulting party where there is doubt as to the propriety of the default judgment. Johnson v. Moore, 514 So.2d 1343 (Ala. 1987). . .

We, therefore, emphatically hold that a trial court, in determining whether to grant or to deny a motion to set aside a default judgment, should exercise its broad discretionary powers with liberality and should balance the equities of the case with a strong bias toward allowing the defendant to have his day in court."

In this case, there isn't much doubt about the default judgment. The evidence indicates it is void, on procedural grounds. In terms of case law, my right to a trial on the merits is paramount and should demand that the default judgment be set aside.

As the defendant, I am due my day in court. Blankenship's order, whenever it comes, should uphold Alabama law on that point.

The above post, which Davy Hay talked me into censoring, showed exactly what Blankesnhip's obligations were under the law and hinted that he probably would ignore them. Unfortunately, my post proved to be quite predictive of Blankenship's actions.

No wonder Davy Hay, as surrogate for the legal tribe, did not want this post to see the light of day. But it's seen the light of day now. Hay's concern should not be about controlling his clients. It should be about unmasking corrupt judges, like Don Blankesnhip, who sit on benches all over Alabama and deny justice -- especially for regular folks going up against the powerful, the moneyed, and the connected.

We see no sign that Davy Hay cares one iota about that. You can bet that Bill Baxley, once known for standing up to the Ku Klux Klan, does not.

Friday, December 2, 2016

UA counsel Cooper Shattuck resigns barely a week after being named in lawsuit brought by ex security chief against "Luv Guv" Bentley and Rebekah Mason

Cooper Shattuck
Cooper Shattuck, chief legal counsel for the University of Alabama System and a confidant of embattled Gov. Robert Bentley, has resigned. The move comes eight days after Wendell Ray Lewis, Bentley's former security chief, filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the governor and his adviser/mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Also named in the lawsuit is ACEGOV, a nonprofit that Shattuck formed, apparently to funnel money to Mason. Just two days ago, we wrote a post about the Lewis lawsuit and its likely discomfiting effects on officials at the University of Alabama and Alabama Power. Shattuck is mentioned prominently in the lawsuit:

A few months after Lewis retired earlier than he had ever intended to, he was contacted about a senior security position with The University of Alabama. He met with Cooper Shattuck, formerly Governor Bentley’s Legal Advisor and now General Counsel to the University System. Shattuck spoke to Lewis about helping with University security, perhaps having a role with Coach Saban, whom Shattuck described as “the University’s greatest asset.” Eventually, Shattuck turned the conversation to the Governor. He asked Lewis his thoughts. Lewis told Shattuck, honestly and soberly, that he thought eventually the Governor would be held accountable, and that he should be. Shattuck replied, “Well, I plan to be a friend to him when he falls.” Lewis never heard back from Shattuck about the University security job.

Shattuck plans to be a friend to Bentley when the "Luv Guv" falls? Is this resignation part of that plan? Was it forced on Shattuck or did he willingly give up what would seem to be a dream job for any UA graduate?

The answers to those questions are not clear, but Shattuck seems to be managing the story by releasing it yesterday afternoon via Fox News Tuscaloosa. Perhaps that is a news outlet he knew would not ask too many questions? Here is the official news release:

After over four years of service as General Counsel for The University of Alabama System, Cooper Shattuck has announced his resignation effective December 31, 2016. Shattuck plans to pursue a number of professional opportunities, including his recent nomination as a candidate for President-Elect of the Alabama State Bar.

“After many years of public service to the State and to the state’s largest education enterprise, I am looking forward to returning to the private practice of law where I can utilize my broad-based experience to further the interests and accomplish the goals of numerous clients,” Shattuck said.

Shattuck joined The University of Alabama System as General Counsel in August 2012. He previously served as Chief Legal Advisor to Governor Robert Bentley, where he worked extensively on the restoration of the environmental impact and recovery of the economic damages sustained by the state as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident.

“I had the pleasure of working with Cooper over the past four years,” current Chancellor Ray Hayes explained. “During his tenure, Cooper maintained and grew a great team in the Office of Counsel and accomplished much. It will be difficult to find his replacement; however, he will assist with the transition.”

John Daniel, Chief University Counsel at UAB, has been named Interim General Counsel, and will work with Shattuck over the next month to ensure a smooth and seamless transition. With over 38,000 employees, 65,000 students, 50 affiliated entities, and a combined budget of over $5.6 billion, The University of Alabama System is the state’s largest education enterprise.

Shattuck put his house on the market last month, according to our sources. That suggests Shattuck is not planning to stick around Tuscaloosa. Where might he wind up? The Beasley Allen law firm in Montgomery is one possible landing place, our sources say. If Bentley picks Luther Strange to replace Jeff Sessions as U.S. Senator, Shattuck might be in line to take over as attorney general.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Campaign adviser Roger Stone makes the most absurd Trump-related comment yet, claiming recount increases odds of Hillary Clinton being prosecuted

Roger Stone and Donald Trump
(From freedomdaily.com)
Of all the stunning statements made by and about President-Elect Donald Trump, the worst might have come earlier this week when a key Trump adviser indicated he had no knowledge of, or respect for, the rule of law.

Roger Stone, in so many words, said he has no regard for the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and for the ideals of the American justice system. If one is to assume that Donald Trump shares those views, our country could be in for a period of unimaginable darkness for the next four years -- or longer.

What exactly did Stone say? He said the Hillary Clinton campaign's decision to join the Green Party's recount effort in three swing states increases the likelihood of Clinton being prosecuted. Here are details on the comments, as reported at The Hill:

A longtime ally of President-elect Donald Trump says the Hillary Clinton campaign joining recount efforts increases the chances that Clinton will face criminal prosecution.

I think Hillary increases her chances of prosecution by acting this way,” Roger Stone said Monday on Newsmax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show.”

We should note that Stone long has been seen in political circles as somewhat of a loon. He got his start in politics as a dirty trickster for Richard Nixon, and The Daily Beast has described him as a "self-admitted hit man for the GOP." But Stone hardly is an outsider or a lightweight. He largely is credited with creating the "Brooks Brothers riot," which stopped the Miami-Dade recount during the 2000 presidential election and helped give us eight years of George W. Bush.

To hear a guy with that kind of clout -- and with the ear of the incoming president -- say that participating in a recount makes it more likely Hillary Clinton will be prosecuted . . . well, it makes one wonder if Stone (or Trump, for that matter) ever took a seventh-grade civics class.

Those of us who did take such a class know a little bit about the quaint notions of due process and equal protection that are found in the 14th Amendment. We know that, at least in theory, all of us are to be treated equally under the law -- and any prosecution is to be based on probable cause that an individual committed a crime, not on her support for a recount that might determine whether our election system was compromised.

Trump recently has backed off his campaign statements that he would prosecute Clinton if he was elected -- supposedly over an alleged e-mail scandal in which the FBI twice has released statements that it could find no criminal wrongdoing. A Politico article about the Stone comments, indicates Trump was on thin legal ice all along:

It would be a major breach of the Justice Department’s traditional independence from the White House for the president to order the prosecution of any individual as a means of political retaliation. (The FBI recommended against bringing charges against Clinton for her use of a secret email secretary of state in July and reaffirmed that decision a few days before the election.)

Still, Trump’s senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, also seemed to draw a connection between the recount effort and the prosecution question during a TV interview on Sunday.

He’s been incredibly gracious and magnanimous to Secretary Clinton at a time when, for whatever reason, her folks are saying they will join in a recount to try to somehow undo the 70-plus electoral votes that he beat her by,” Conway said to CNN’s Dana Bash.

To make this even more mind blowing, one of Trump's candidates to be secretary of state reportedly is Gen. David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to giving classified information to his mistress and still is on probation for that crime. This is an administration-in-waiting that suggests it would prosecute Hillary Clinton, against whom the FBI found no criminal conduct regarding classified information, while offering a cabinet post to David Petraeus, who has admitted to committing a crime involving classified information.

This is scary stuff, folks, especially for those of us who are wide awake in what seems to be a somnolent United States. Before even taking office, you have Trump and his acolytes essentially saying they support political prosecutions -- or, even worse, prosecutions based on whims or perceived affronts.

This suggests these people are not only dangerous, they are frightfully stupid. To go on television, time and again, to say they do not respect basic constitutional protections indicates they have no business serving in a position of governmental authority.

How dense are these people? Stone told The Daily Beast in 2008 that he had come to regret launching the Brooks Brothers riot. From the article:

“When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, 'Maybe there wouldn't have been a war if I hadn't gone to Miami-Dade. Maybe there wouldn't have been, in my view, an unjustified war if Bush hadn't become president.' It's very disturbing to me."

It was so "disturbing" that Stone now supports Donald Trump? Sweet Jeebus, have mercy on what's left of our country!

We learn that Roger Stone has a sliver of a conscience, and at least mild concern about the U.S. engaging in unjustified wars. but he supports Donald Trump in 2016? The same Donald Trump who appears quite capable of launching unjust wars on a monthly basis, once he hits the Oval Office?

So Roger Stone perhaps has a conscience when it comes to war, but his conscience exits stage left when it comes to political prosecutions and respect for the constitution? A shaky conscience, with no brain, is . . . well, a bad combination.

Man, we are in for a heap of trouble. Our country probably has never seen dysfunction like Donald Trump, and acolytes such as Roger Stone, are about to unleash.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Lawsuit from "Luv Guv" Bentley's ex security chief might shine unwelcome light on financial shenanigans involving U of Alabama and Alabama Power

Wendell Ray Lewis
(From linkedin.com)
Officials from the University of Alabama and Alabama Power might be feeling a tad uncomfortable after former security chief Wendell Ray Lewis filed a lawsuit last week against Governor Robert Bentley, mistress/former adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, the ACEGOV nonprofit, Bentley for Governor Inc., and other unnamed persons and entities.

Coverage of the lawsuit, so far, has focused mainly on its content about the Bentley/Mason extramarital affair. But Lewis' complaint goes well beyond that, focusing on ACEGOV -- described in some quarters as a "slush fund" to pay Mason for her "services" -- and those who funded it. The complaint also seeks information about individuals who helped cost Lewis possible jobs at UA and Alabama Power after he had been forced out in the Bentley administration, apparently at Mason's insistence.

For example, the lawsuit names fictitious defendants "D," "E," and "F, who are described as:

"those persons, firms, corporations, universities, trade associations, think-tanks, non-profits, or other entities who or which contributed money directly or indirectly to Mason, whether by cash, check, PayPal, or other means, or provided other benefits or things of value to Defendant Mason, through RCM, or any of Defendant Mason’s businesses, any of Jon Mason’s businesses, ACEGOV, and/or Bentley for Governor, Inc."

The lawsuit clearly seeks information about "corporations," "universities," and other entities that paid Rebekah Mason and her husband, Jon Mason. It also dips into the world of journalism, seeking information about those who:

"participated in the act of feeding to certain Alabama journalists misleading information about the overtime worked, earned and/or paid to Plaintiff [Lewis] by the State of Alabama."

Speaking of the University of Alabama, the suit makes multiple references to Cooper Shattuck, UA's chief legal counsel and a former Bentley staff member. The lawsuit shines light on what led Shattuck to form ACEGOV:

On one occasion, Dr. Henry Mabry, then the Executive Secretary of the Alabama Education Association, said he could get Mason paid to the tune of $150,000. Paul Bentley told Lewis that Cooper Shattuck, the Governor’s former Legal Advisor, set up the 501(c)(4) for Mason. On information and belief, that 501(c)(4) was Defendant ACEGOV. Seth Hammett told Lewis he had a conversation with the Governor in which Hammett informed the Governor that because of the Governor’s relationship with Mrs. Mason, Mason could not be on the state payroll, therefore the need for the 501(c)(4). Bentley confirmed that conversation to Lewis,saying of Hammett, “I want his ass gone."

The lawsuit describes Lewis' relationship with Rebekah Mason as "strained at best." From the complaint:

She knew he wasn’t going to do anything to facilitate her relationship with the Governor; she wanted him gone. Plaintiff was beginning to reach an important conclusion: once you got in Rebekah’s cross hairs, that was it. She ordered the hit, and the Governor carried it out. At one point, the Governor barked to Lewis, “If anybody says another thing about Rebekah, I will fire their ass.

Rebekah Mason and Nick Saban
(From heavy.com)
It seems someone close to Bentley still had Lewis in his/her cross hairs, even after he had left his state job. From the complaint:

A few months after Lewis retired earlier than he had ever intended to, he was contacted about a senior security position with The University of Alabama. He met with Cooper Shattuck, formerly Governor Bentley’s Legal Advisor and now General Counsel to the University System. Shattuck spoke to Lewis about helping with University security, perhaps having a role with Coach Saban, whom Shattuck described as “the University’s greatest asset.” Eventually, Shattuck turned the conversation to the Governor. He asked Lewis his thoughts. Lewis told Shattuck, honestly and soberly, that he thought eventually the Governor would be held accountable, and that he should be. Shattuck replied, “Well, I plan to be a friend to him when he falls.” Lewis never heard back from Shattuck about the University security job. When Lewis eventually himself got back in touch with Shattuck, he told Lewis to reach out to Ronnie Robertson. Lewis followed up with Robertson, who had nothing to do with anything Lewis and Shattuck had talked about. Needless to say, no job offer was forthcoming.

Lewis went through a similar experience with Alabama Power:

Lewis also heard about this same time from Clay Ryan, a Birmingham attorney, who asked Lewis if he would be interested in the job of head of security for Alabama Power. Lewis responded in the affirmative. By text message on July 24, 2015, Ryan informed Lewis that the “pay will be ‘what it takes’ [one can assume, to get Lewis there]” and “You would be crosswhite’s [sic] guy” meaning Mark Crosswhite, the President and CEO of Alabama Power. Lewis replied, that same day, “Thanks Clay. This is a great opportunity!” But it never materialized. Ryan asked Lewis to send him a resume, which he did. But then Ryan asked Lewis how he intended to respond if and when the questions started flowing about the Governor. Another honest answer from Lewis. Another no call back.

(Note: The UA System hired Ryan as vice president of governmental affairs in September 2015; before that, he was an attorney at Maynard Cooper and Gale in Birmingham. Ryan helped serve as PR defender for UAB President Ray Watts during the university's controversy over removal of the football program.)

Lewis winds up alleging two counts of intentional interference with business or contractual relations -- one for unlawfully pushing him out of his state job and one for costing him opportunities with at least two other employers once he left.

Gee, this story sounds familiar. Cheating someone out of his long-time position as a state employee, and then making sure that his career is ruined so that he can't find jobs with other employers -- and he can't find justice in a court of law? Where have we heard that before?

Have "Luv Guv" and "Home Wrecky Becky" been taking notes from Alabama's previous GOP regime, led by Bob and Rob "Uday" Riley? Sure sounds like it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I've let someone talk me into censoring a post only once in LS history, and it was a mistake, one I am correcting shortly, with insights about Garrison case

Davy Hay
Since this blog began in June 2007, there has been only one instance where I let someone talk me out of publishing a post. I've regretted it ever since, and I intend to correct the mistake in the next few days. But first, some background.

A hearing was held in Jefferson County Circuit Court on June 18, 2015, to consider my motion to vacate a $3.5-million default judgment for GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison in her defamation lawsuit against me. I had researched the issues enough beforehand to know there was no way, under the law, Judge Don Blankenship could allow the default judgment to stand.

Davy Hay, my attorney at the time, and Garrison lawyer Bill Baxley argued the issues, and Blankenship stated that he would issue a written order in a few days or weeks. I knew the motion had to be granted, with the default judgment vacated, and the case moving forward with discovery and possibly a trial. I wrote a post to that effect and published it the next morning, June 19, explaining the facts and law that Blankenship had to follow -- at least if he took his judicial oath seriously.

Later that day, Hay contacted me and asked that I remove the post. His thinking? He said the post made it look like he couldn't "control" his client. Reluctantly, I took the post down, and naturally, Blankenship issued an order several weeks later, ignoring the law and denying our motion to vacate.

As it turned out, my post was spot-on about most every issue. But Davy Hay apparently only cared about not being embarrassed because his client had written accurately that a judge was incompetent, crooked, or both.

Hay then bailed out of the matter, even though we had a written agreement for him to represent me in the Jessica Garrison case -- the whole case. Hay got tons of free publicity from my case, and made multiple high-minded statements on his Facebook page about the critical free-speech issues at hand. But ultimately, he had no interest in fighting for those weighty, constitutional issues.

In a Facebook post dated April 23, 2015, Hay wrote:

I am about to hit "File Motion" on the single most important document I have ever written.

The document was a motion in my case. In a Facebook post dated April 28, 2015, Hay stayed with the high-minded theme:

My client and I are fighting for the most basic freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

I was that client. Hay then used my case to get the kind of publicity he probably has never gotten at any other time in his legal career. Alabama Political Reporter published an article titled "Legal Schnauzer blogger finally has a legal champion." From the article, by Bill Britt:

Since July 2013, Roger Shuler has suffered one legal defeat after another, over reports he published on Legal Schnauzer concerning Liberty Duke, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Attorney General Luther Strange and Rob Riley, son of former Gov. Bob Riley.

During all of his legal troubles, Shuler refused legal council (sic), and according to a report in The New York Times, maintained “self-defeating posturing.” (Note: This is off target on a couple of fronts. I never refused legal counsel; I always was open to, and would have welcomed, tough, smart, honest, affordable legal help. But no such lawyer appeared to meet me at the Shelby County Jail. As for the "self-defeating posturing" business, that characterization came from a right-wing California lawyer/blogger named Ken White (Popehat blog) who knew nothing about me and very little about my case. The guy presented zero evidence to support his claim.)

Since our legal travails started 16 years ago, Carol and I have hired at least five lawyers. (I might be forgetting someone.) Obviously, I don't "refuse counsel." I do tend to part ways with lawyers once they've made it clear they aren't going to do what they've said they would do. That gets a bit aggravating, especially when you've paid one lawyer roughly $12,000 and another $4,500. I have this strange tendency to get peeved when I pay that kind of money and get nothing for it -- especially in cases where the facts and law clearly are on my side. That doesn't even count the dozens of lawyers we've communicated with, or met with, and decided we wanted no part of working with them. A classic line from one such lawyer: "I'm not going to look down any rabbit holes!" Translation: "I have no intention of doing serious discovery to help prove your case -- but oh, I will require $5,000 up front for you to retain my 'services.' And that's just for starters." Gee, can't imagine why we found that unappetizing.

Anyway, here is more from the Britt article:

In an up-coming May hearing, [Shuler] will be represented by Davy Mack Hay, who said he will seek the justice that Shuler has been denied under the First Amendment. . . .

Hay, who has known Shuler for a number of years, recently filed a Motion To Alter, Amend, or Vacate the recent $3.5 million default judgment received by Garrison, for what her attorney called “cyber-bullying of the worst order.” (Note: This isn't accurate either. Hay and I never really knew each other. We talked on the phone a time or two a few months before he became my lawyer. And to this day, I haven't met him in person. We certainly did not know each other for a number of years.)

While it appears that Hay will be fighting the default judgment on grounds that his client was not properly informed of the hearing, it is about a much bigger issue, he says.

At issue is " . . . core constitutional tenets of journalistic protections associated with a ‘free press,’ which allows the unmitigated flow of news and information, void of Orwellian governmental intrusion,” writes Hays, in his motion.

More high-cotton rhetoric was present in an al.com article titled "Blogger Roger Shuler fighting $3.5 million judgment." From the article, by Kent Faulk:

Shuler, who operates the website Legal Schnauzer, on Thursday afternoon, filed a motion through his attorney asking Jefferson County Circuit Judge Donald Blankenship to vacate his April 13 default judgment against Shuler for $1.5 million in compensatory and $2 million in punitive damages.

Shuler also asks the judge to grant him leave to file an amended answer and counterclaim, and enter a new scheduling order sufficient to allow time for discovery in the case.

Notice key information in the final paragraph. Hay and I had discussed the possibility of filing a counterclaim and seeking discovery, and he agreed to take that approach. In other words, it was not just about overcoming the groundless default judgment; it was about going on the offensive, seeking discovery that would show Garrison knowingly filed a bogus lawsuit against me. I wanted Garrison held accountable for engaging in such fraudulent behavior, and Hay agreed that was the right approach. Here's more from the Faulk article:

Shuler filed an initial response denying Garrison's claims but failed or refused to sit for a scheduled deposition and did not attend a hearing that resulted in the default judgment.

Prattville attorney Davy Hay, who entered an appearance in the case on April 18 on behalf of Shuler, stated in Thursday's motion that the court had issued an order in the case May 9, 2014 changing Shuler's address from the Shelby County Jail to an address in north Shelby County.

"However, the aforementioned address was no longer the defendant's (Shuler's) residence by virtue of a recent foreclosure. Therefore, he did not receive notice of this court's scheduling order or any subsequent documents filed in the case," according to the motion.

Hay states in the motion that Garrison failed to ascertain Shuler's whereabouts and provide proper notice regarding hearings or filings in compliance with his due process rights, especially considering Shuler was representing himself at the time.

"Now that defendant (Shuler) is represented by counsel, he understands he had a duty to notify the clerk of court of any address changes, however, several circumstances prevented him from doing so," according to Hay's motion.

Hay is mostly on target here. As a procedural matter, I should have notified the court of our new address -- and I would have if our lives had not been turned upside down via the foreclosure; in fact, for quite some time, we did not know where our address was going to be. As a matter of law, however, we have shown that Garrison had an obligation to make sure I had at least three days notice of her application for default and a hearing on the issue. (See Abernathy v. Green Tree Servicing (Ala. Civ. App., 2010).

Garrison did not fulfill that obligation, meaning her $3.5-million judgment is void and can be attacked as such at any point. In short, the judgment is a nullity, having zero legal foundation. Here is more from the Faulk article, focusing on matters my wife, Carol, and I were struggling with at the time of the default judgment:

According to the motion those circumstances were:

* "Mr. Shuler and his wife lost their home and were facing the very real possibility of being homeless. This being such a pressing and immediate issue, all other concerns had to be given lower priority.

* "Mr. Shuler had just spent five (5) months in jail, which began with being beaten by law enforcement officials in his own home and wrongfully detained, in violation of his constitutional rights."

* "Mr. Shuler and his wife experienced excessive psychological trauma, resulting in the defendant spending six (6) days in a psychiatric unit, in direct relation to these events, and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder."

* "Mr. Shuler has a good-faith belief that his very life has been in actual peril as a result of his reporting. Accordingly, he has been and continues to be highly reluctant to submit to the authority of the state after what he perceives to be illegal attacks against his person, his family, and his rights as a citizen of the United States."

Hay states in the motion that Shuler has a meritorious defense in the case, "and by virtue of evidence currently in his possession and that which can be obtained through exhaustive discovery, shall show that the case against him is frivolous and nothing more than an attempt by the plaintiff to unconstitutionally bully the defendant (Shuler) into silence."

Hay argues in the motion that Garrison is a public figure, based on her work on Strange's campaigns, her appointment as Chief Counsel and Deputy Attorney General of the state of Alabama in 2011, and her position as director of the Republican Attorneys General Association. If Garrison was to be considered a public figure, rather than a private citizen, it would raise the burden to that of proving actual malice, the motion states.

This is good stuff from Hay. The four circumstances listed are all accurate; in fact, they pretty much are matters of public record. Garrison's lawsuit, in fact, was nothing but an effort to bully me into silence. And there is little doubt Garrison is a public figure, but that standard was not used in her default judgment. That means the splashy $3.5-million figure is based on a flawed interpretation of the law.

Where does Hay go off the tracks? Well, note his reference to "exhaustive discovery," along with his earlier reference to our intention to file a counterclaim. Was Hay serious about that? Doesn't look like it. He bailed out of the case before doing any discovery.

After the hearing with Baxley -- but several weeks before Blankenship issued his order -- Hay told me Garrison had offered to accept a $1 payment from me if I would agree to remove posts about her extramarital affair with Attorney General Luther Strange. There were a couple of problems with that: One, I never saw such an offer in writing; two, I wasn't about to accept such an offer. I told Hay from the outset that Garrison had filed a groundless defamation lawsuit, and I wanted to file a counterclaim to hold her accountable. Hay made it clear he understood that, and indicated he would conduct "exhaustive discovery" to get at the truth.

He either never had any intention of conducting such discovery -- or his mind changed the day he and Bill Baxley came together to argue the motion to vacate.

My relationship with Davy Hay did not end on a good note. I liked Davy and thought he was someone with genuine ethics, but right now, I wouldn't recommend him to work a traffic-ticket case.

With that as background, let's look at the one post that I allowed someone to talk me into censoring. It's been a little more than a year since I wrote it, but every point about the Jessica Garrison case still holds. Her $3.5-million default judgment is void, a nullity, and not worth a piece of used toilet paper:

(To be continued)

Monday, November 28, 2016

"Luv Guv" Bentley's affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason likely became known in May 2014, coinciding with increase in the governor's use of state aircraft

Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
(From nytimes.com)
Governor Robert Bentley's family members and closest associates started suspecting he was having an affair with senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason in early May 2014, according to a wrongful termination lawsuit filed last week by former security chief Wendell Ray Lewis. That coincides with a Decatur Daily report that shows Bentley's use of state aircraft increased dramatically in the first quarter of 2014.

Does that add to the evidence that Bentley was using state resources to facilitate an extramarital affair that ended his 50-year marriage to Dianne Bentley and launched multiple criminal investigations of his administration? That certainly appears to be the case.

This is from the Lewis civil complaint, providing insight about when those closest to Gov. Bentley began to suspect he was having an affair:

May 4, 2014, is when Lewis first learned that Governor Bentley might be having an affair with Mrs. Mason. The Governor was flying to Talladega for a race, at which he was the Grand Marshall. Lewis, Paul Bentley (the Governor’s oldest son), the Governor, Mason, and the Governor’s grandchildren were on a State plane.

Paul Bentley leaned over and said to Lewis, “I need to talk to you later in the week.” Ray replied, “Okay. What about?” “Mom says she is seeing ghosts.” “What do you mean?”, asked Lewis. Paul Bentley replied, “She thinks Dad is having a relationship with Rebekah.”

That is in the general time frame of a Decatur Daily article titled "Gov. Bentley picks up pace of in-state flights." From the article, dated July 26, 2014, and written by Mary Sell:

Gov. Robert Bentley’s use of state-owned aircraft increased in the first quarter of this year as he flew around Alabama more often than in the previous three years.

His communications officials say the travel was all related to his role as governor and not his re-election campaign. Any campaign expenses incurred by his office have been reimbursed by his campaign.

Bentley’s flight logs, but not the trips’ costs, are listed on his office’s website. The log for the second quarter — April, May and June — had not been posted as of late last week.

Most of Bentley’s flights are on an older-model Alabama Department of Transportation jet. In June, The Decatur Daily filed an open records request with ALDOT for the cost of each trip taken by Bentley from January through June 3, the GOP primary.

The department turned over records, for a $118 fee, on 35 flights totaling about $83,600. Bentley’s office occasionally uses other state agency aircraft, including that belonging to the department of public safety.

“The governor uses the plane as necessary to fulfill the duties of being governor,” Jennifer Ardis, spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said Thursday in an email. “His goal is to meet with people outside of Montgomery in order to understand local issues and communicate his message of job creation, government efficiency savings, etc.

Did the governor also use the plane to help fulfill his "manly needs"? Alabama taxpayers certainly have grounds to ask that question, seeing as how they pay for these things. You will notice that Bentley's communications team tried to quell any drama that might come from questions about use of state aircraft. And a key member of that team, in various roles, was . . . Rebekah Caldwell Mason. The Decatur Daily helped put her in the spotlight:

Rebekah Caldwell Mason, Bentley’s campaign spokeswoman, said the governor has never used state aircraft for campaign purposes. The Bentley campaign has made payments to the state’s General Fund as reimbursement for campaign-related travel in state vehicles, as required by state code.

Records on the secretary of state’s website show Bentley’s camp has paid $758 to the General Fund since August of last year for transportation and administration cost reimbursements.

Mason is listed as being on at least one flight paid by taxpayers, according to the online flight logs. Before she was his campaign spokeswoman, Mason was director of communications in the governor’s office.

“When the Governor’s Communications Office is short-staffed, I volunteer at no cost to the taxpayers, and the law allows for that,” Mason said of why she was on the flight.

So the governor's mistress volunteered to board flights, at no cost to taxpayers, because . . . well, she's just a swell gal. It surely had nothing to do with allegations, as outlined in the Lewis lawsuit, that she was bonking the governor at the time.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Talk about "fearless leadership": New lawsuit reveals "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley was afraid to break up with his mistress, so he asked security chief to do it for him

Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley asked a security chief for help breaking up with "First Mistress" Rebekah Caldwell Mason -- and it looked like the plan was going to work until Bentley walked in the room and undid all the progress the security guy had made. Thus, the extramarital relationship between Bentley and Mason continued -- and it was, in fact, a physical affair, as any sentient being should have been able to tell from news reports over the past 15 months or so. At one point, Mason made a special request to have a couch placed in her office. Hmmm, wonder why she was in need of a couch?

Those are perhaps the most laughably insightful moments from a wrongful-termination lawsuit former security director Wendell Ray Lewis filed this week. The suit is filled with sordid and buffoonish moments from the Bentley/Mason soap opera, but it really is not funny. It probably leaves a reasonable reader asking, "This guy talks tough about immigration and 'bloodthirsty Mexicans,' but he doesn't have the courage to break up with his girlfriend? That's the kind of 'fearless leadership' Alabama's had for six years? This guy is like a 10-year-old boy staring in amazement at his morning erection. Good grief!"

Good grief, indeed. But when you consider how much state property and funds apparently were used to facilitate the Bentley/Mason affair . . . well, the laughter starts to die down in a hurry. From Chip Brownlee's report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR):

The lawsuit . . . lays out . . . Lewis’ final year as the Governor’s top body guard and the affair he says he witnessed. In the 50-page brief, Lewis and his attorneys summarize sordid details of Bentley’s alleged relationship with Mason.

Their affair — which the Governor now claims is over — dated back to at least spring 2014, when Lewis said he first learned of the possibility that the Governor could be involved with Mason, according to the lawsuit. Lewis said Paul Bentley, the Governor’s son, told him that they suspected an affair in May 2014.

Lewis — who headed the Governor’s security detail, traveled everywhere with him and had an office in the capitol across the hall from the Governor — said he observed Mason entering the Governor’s office for hours on end in private, alone with the Governor.

“[Lewis] could see anyone coming or going, and could take note of how long someone had been in the Governor’s office,” the lawsuit says. “There were times when [Lewis] would observe Rebekah Mason coming out of the Governor’s office, with her hair all messed up, and straightening up her skirt as she emerged from the Governor’s office, after having been in there for hours.

Bentley has tried to convince the public that his relationship with Mason went no further than "inappropriate remarks" -- "dirty talk," if you will, as caught on an audio recording that became public in March of this year. Even the press largely has fallen for it, calling it an "alleged affair" or a case of Bentley making "inappropriate statements." The press conveniently forgot that key statements involved Bentley's fond reminisces of fondling Mason's breasts and exploring her nether regions.

That, folks, is a physical affair -- straight from the governor's own mouth -- by any definition I'm aware of. But if that doesn't work for some folks, we now have Lewis' word for it. And we learn that Bentley's former wife of 50 years, Dianne, and at least one of his sons, played a major role in breaking the story wide open. From Lewis' complaint:

Three days later on May 7, 2014, after Lewis first learned of the affair from Bentley’s son, Lewis was summoned to Bentley’s office on Capitol Hill, according to the suit. He went in and found the Governor, accompanied by Mason, crying:

“Lewis asked, ‘Governor, what is going on?’ Bentley replied, ‘Dianne has accused me of having an affair, and she has a recording.’ He added that his wife, Dianne, had a recording, but had given it to his son (Paul). The Governor asked Lewis to go talk to Paul. Lewis inquired, ‘What do you want me to do?’ The Governor replied, ‘Find out if he has a recording.’ He sent Mason out of the office, and she went up to the Lt. Governor’s conference room.

"Bentley then replied, ‘Ray, I am embarrassed for you to hear what’s on that recording. It’s between Rebekah and I. I am ashamed of what came out of my mouth.’ Lewis inquired, ‘Governor, are you telling me that this is true?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the Governor, ‘I am ashamed of what I have done.’"

Following is a section from the lawsuit that indicates Alabama has been led by a dysfunctional doofus:

After finding out about the relationship, Lewis says, he began pleading with the governor to end it because he was afraid Bentley could get into trouble for using state vehicles and planes to facilitate the affair. When Lewis confronted the Governor, Bentley asked Lewis to “break-up with Rebekah” for him, according to the lawsuit.

In Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey’s conference room, Lewis attempted to end the affair for Bentley for over an hour. Lewis thought he was successful ending the affair, with both Bentley and Mason agreeing it should end. Nevertheless, Bentley came in and began “rubbing and massaging Mason’s shoulders, stroking her hair and saying, “Baby, it’s gonna be alright,” the lawsuit says.

But it wasn’t over, the lawsuit alleges. For the next year, until Lewis retired in early 2015, Bentley and Mason continued their affair despite Lewis’s repeated attempts to convince them both to quit seeing each other.

Here is a key section from the Lewis complaint:

Lewis and the Governor were sitting in Lewis' truck, at the airport about to get on a plane. Lewis asked the Governor, "Governor, there's a lot of talk going on. Was it a physical relationship? After initially hemming and hawing, the Governor replied, reluctantly but clearly, "Yeah, it was physical."

To what extent did Bentley abuse the use of state funds and property to facilitate and cover up the affair? Lewis' complaint provides insight:

* Mason would visit the Governor at the Governor’s Mansion while Dianne Bentley was away. But after finding out that Ms. Bentley had knowledge of Mason’s name on visitor logs, Mason and Bentley began meeting at the Blount House, which kept no logs.

* Bentley leased planes for his campaign because private planes didn’t have to keep manifests. On the planes, “Mason would sit across from the Governor and discreetly touch his leg.”

* Bentley would regularly have Lewis pick Mason up in a state car or on the state helicopter. They would even swap Mason for Jennifer Ardis, Bentley’s former director of communications, on the manifests so that Mason would go undetected.

* The Governor met, on at least one occasion, with Mason at a private lake house with no security present.

* Bentley would routinely carry three cell phones, his State phone, his personal phone and a third phone, which Lewis says Bentley used to communicate with Mason. He also had separate email accounts. 
* Based on Lewis' complaint, Bentley might be in trouble well beyond his official capacity as governor.

The lawsuit provides evidence that Bentley abused his privileges as a licensed physician:

Bentley, a licensed physician, wrote a drug prescription for Mason. And, on at least one occasion, according to the lawsuit, Bentley ordered Viagra in Ms. Bentley’s name, and had it shipped to the Governor’s Mansion.

Writing a prescription for someone who likely is not your patient? Fraudulently writing a prescription in someone else's name? Are these the kinds of acts that can cause a doctor to lose his license? The answer likely is yes.

Below is the full Lewis lawsuit:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bama GOPers Martha Roby and Bill Armistead concoct tall tales that "liberals" blocked Jeff Sessions' judicial nomination in 1986, when it really was Republicans

Jeff Sessions
Alabama conservatives are trying to rewrite history in an effort to pave the way for U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions' (R-AL) confirmation as attorney general under president-elect Donald Trump. The public, hopefully, will not fall for it.

At least two prominent Alabama Republicans in recent days have made statements hinting that liberals blocked Sessions ascension to a federal judgeship after he had been nominated in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. The truth, however, is that Republicans controlled the U.S. Senate at the time, and they controlled the Senate Judiciary Committee that rejected Sessions.

Heck, the committee chairman was Strom Thurmond (R-SC). If you are too racist for Strom Thurmond, that's pretty powerful stuff.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) is practicing a campaign of deceit on behalf of Sessions. Here is her comment from an article at Alabama Political Reporter (APR):

Rep. Roby said, “You know, we’ve seen these attacks before. Washington liberals kept Senator Sessions from an appointment to the federal bench during the Reagan Administration using these same tactics. . . . "

Roby, of course, has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Sessions in the Senate, so it's little wonder she is willing to con the public in an effort to push his confirmation as AG. She's thinking "career move, career move!"

Bill Armistead joined Roby in piling on the barnyard feces. From APR:

Former Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said on social media, “The liberal media and Democrats don’t want you to read the Weekly Standard because people will find out that Sen. Jeff Sessions is not a racist as they are making him out to be. They KNOW he’s not but that’s the only thing they can fabricate to accuse him of since his conservative voting record can’t be attacked. So they play the race card every time a conservative is put up for something in hopes of bringing them down. This time they will not succeed! They played the race card on him in 1986 after President Reagan nominated him to a federal judgeship. This will not work again.

Well, Mr. Armistead, it worked once because members of your party, Republicans, directed a process that concluded Jeff Sessions' history of racist remarks and actions made him unsuitable for the bench. And you, a Republican, look pretty stupid accusing someone else of playing the "race card." From a report at Democracy Now!

Sessions [once] was in the seat of the nominee. President Ronald Reagan had nominated Jeff Sessions to be a US district judge in 1986. At that time, Reagan had already appointed some 200 judges throughout the federal system, and Republicans held the majority on committee.

But Sessions became only the second man in fifty years to not be recommended for confirmation. Two Republicans, including Arlen Specter, voted against him. His fellow senator from Alabama, Howell Heflin, also voted against him, citing, quote, “reasonable doubts” over Sessions’ ability to be “fair and impartial.”

The comments from Roby and Armistead tell us two things:

(1) Republicans of 2016, unlike some of their predecessors from 30 years ago, are fundamentally dishonest;

(2) When postmodern Republicans have nothing of substance to say, which is much of time, all they can do is whip out the word "liberal" as if it were a curse word.

No wonder Republicans nominated a buffoon like Donald Trump. They don't have the intellectual capacity and integrity to govern -- and Trump fits into their dysfunctional orbit perfectly.

At the link below is a transcript of the Sessions hearings from 1986. You will notice the committee contains such "liberal stalwarts" as Alan Simpson (Wyoming), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Charles Grassley (Iowa), Jeremiah Denton (Alabama), Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania), and Mitch McConnell (Kentucky). You also will notice that Republicans on the committee outnumber Democrats, 10-8. And the chairman is that paragon of liberality, Strom Thurmond (South Carolina).

This all tells us that Roby and Armistead are stupid, lazy, or practitioners of con artistry. I would suggest they likely are all three.

Senate Judiciary Hearing on Jeff Sessions' nomination for federal judgeship, 1986:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Snopes.com, the famed Web fact-checking site, weighs in on the story of U.S. Judge Bill Pryor and his connections to 1990s gay porn via badpuppy.com

Bill Pryor, from badpuppy.com
The Web's best-known fact-checking site has weighed in on the story of U.S. District Judge Bill Pryor and a nude photo of him that appeared at several gay-pornography media outlets in the 1980s and '90s. We broke the Pryor-porn story in September 2013, and interest in it skyrocketed recently in the wake of Donald Trump's election, with the possibility that Pryor will be nominated to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Snopes.com reportedly attracted 7 to 8 million unique visits in one month during 2010, making it almost certainly the most widely read fact-checking site on the Web. With a recent post titled "Derobed: A photograph of a nude young man has been claimed to picture Judge William Pryor, a potential Supreme Court nominee," Snopes has applied its research capabilities to a story that has been big in Alabama and the Southeast for some time -- and might soon become a story of national importance.

What is Snopes conclusion about the Pryor story? It labels the story as "unproven." Does that bother me? Absolutely not. For one, I welcome the analysis of  a widely read, and generally respected, site such as Snopes. Two, despite its solid reputation, Snopes' analysis of this story has problems; the site gets key facts wrong, and it's analysis is flawed. I, however, am happy to have the attention for a story that could soon be vitally important to America's future.

From the Snopes article, by Dan Evon:

CLAIM: A photograph of a nude young man pictures Judge William Pryor, a potential Supreme Court nominee.

ORIGIN:Judge William H. Pryor of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has been in the news lately, both because his name reportedly appeared on President-Elect Donald Trump's definitive list of potential Supreme Court nominees, and because while serving as Alabama's attorney general Pryor filed an amicus brief in support of a Texas anti-sodomy law.

It was with some sense of irony, then, that in November 2016, an old image purportedly showing William Pryor posing nude for a gay porn magazine as a young man was recirculated online in November 2016:

Snopes gave us credit for breaking the story, and we appreciate that, although we object to the characterization that the "rumor" originated with our Web site. We didn't engage in rumor dissemination; we engaged in journalism:

The rumor that Pryor once posed nude for a gay porn magazine originated with a web site called "Legal Schnauzer" back in 2013. That web site claimed that the photograph "likely appeared in at least one print publication in the 1980s" and was later published by the web site Badpuppy.com in 1997. However, the former reference is too vague to verify, and we were unable to find the image on Badpuppy. (Legal Schnauzer claims the image was removed from Badpuppy, but not before the Alabama Bureau of Investigations managed to capture a screenshot of it.)

Where does Snopes go off the tracks? It starts here, with a paragraph that is below a redacted version of the nude Pryor photo we first published:

The assertion that the above-displayed photograph is a picture of Judge William Pryor is based on three factors: a supposed headshot of the model appears next to the name "Bill Pryor," colleagues of the judge reportedly saw the photograph and exclaimed that it looked like him, and that the model and Pryor both allegedly have "strabismus" (i.e., crossed-eyes). 
Whatever the evidence provided by Legal Schnauzer, the alleged opinion of two unidentified officials isn't proof of anything. Furthermore, while whoever posed for the photograph may resemble Pryor at first glance, a side-by-side comparison shows that certain features (such as the nose) seemingly don't match.

What problems are present here?

(1) Snopes ignores the fact that we interviewed two former state law-enforcement officials who were directly involving in investigating the photos out of concern that Pryor, then Alabama's freshly named attorney general, might be vulnerable to blackmail. Snopes apparently glossed over this paragraph from our original report on the Pryor photos:

Alabama law-enforcement officials became aware of the photos at badpuppy.com in 1997, not long before Governor Fob James appointed Pryor attorney general. An investigation ensued, and multiple officials familiar with that process have told Legal Schnauzer that the photos are, in fact, of the Bill Pryor who now sits on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Sources say the photos were taken while Pryor was a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe) from 1980 to 1984.

Bottom line? Our reporting was not based on just the three factors Snopes lists above. It also was based on interviews with multiple law-enforcement officials who were directly involved in the matter and said their investigation showed the nude individual was "the" Bill Pryor.

(2) Snopes claims the noses in the two photos do not match, but it does not say how. The older Pryor weighs more than the younger Pryor, and his face is more full, but I see no other difference in the noses. Snopes fails to mention that both images clearly do involve strabismus and attached earlobes.

Finally, we have this from Snopes:

But perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of this claim is simply that this photograph, which the Alabama Bureau of Investigations (ABI) and public officials have allegedly known about since the 1990s, has never been directly linked to Pryor. The judge, who was nominated to the Eleventh Circuit by President George W. Bush in 2003, told the Justice Integrity Project in 2013 that:

"I have been smeared by a widely discredited blogger with a political agenda. His allegations have now been picked up by other bloggers. The person in the unsourced, undated photographs is not me, and I deny these allegations. I have been twice vetted by the FBI, including as recently as this past year; I have won two contested statewide elections; and I have been in the public eye for almost twenty years. I will not dignify these disgraceful accusations with any further comment."

The first highlighted section simply is not true. Multiple law-enforcement officials have directly linked the photo to Pryor, based on their investigation, which took them to Monroe, Louisiana, where Pryor went to college.

The second highlighted section does not tell the whole story. Pryor did not tell the Justice Integrity Project (JIP) anything in 2013. In fact, he apparently did not speak to JIP publisher Andrew Kreig at all, and definitely did not take any questions. Instead, Pryor had a former law clerk named Jennifer Bandy issue the "official statement" Snopes cites above.

Does Snopes reveal Andrew Kreig's assessment, based on research that included an attempt to interview Pryor, which Snopes apparently made no effort to do? No, it doesn't, but here is the conclusion that Kreig reached:

My opinion is that the photo is Pryor more likely than not, despite his denial.

Perhaps Snopes and Dan Evon would be wise to provide their audience with more context to this story. They could inform their readers that I broke the Pryor story on September 17, 2013, and one week later, Alabama deputies (in groups of two and three, always with multiple vehicles) started regularly appearing at our house, with no lawful grounds for trampling all over our property. Less than one month after the show of law-enforcement thuggery began, a deputy walked into our garage (without showing a warrant, stating he had a warrant, or stating his reasons for being present), beat me up, doused me with pepper spray and hauled me to the Shelby County Jail for a five-month stay -- all with no legal grounds for doing so.

I became the only American journalist since 2006 to be incarcerated -- and apparently the only one in American history to be arrested over a preliminary injunction that is unlawful in a defamation case under 230 years of First Amendment law. Is it a coincidence that this happened just weeks after I broke the story of Bill Pryor's youthful foray into gay porn?

I don't think so, and I would invite an inquiry from Snopes into the really important, and disturbing, aspects of this story. Dan Evon likely has no idea how deep the ugliness goes -- and it even includes an effort to have a bogus "content warning" placed on my blog.

An in-depth inquiry would show that the individual in the nude photo is, in fact, "the" Bill Pryor -- and the judge and his allies, in a show of Stalinesque force, had a journalist kidnapped and thrown in jail for reporting accurately on the story.

Life in America likely will get ugly under Donald Trump, and the Pryor story provides a glimpse of how far entitled, white right-wingers will go when they feel threatened by the truth.