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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ashley Madison customers revealed: Protective Life VP Paul Wells appears on list and went through a divorce that might be tied to notorious Web site

Protective building in Birmingham
(From cargocollective.com
One of the youngest vice presidents in the history of Protective Life is among paying customers at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site, records show.

Public records also show that Paul Wells went through a divorce in 2015. Did Amy Scotch Wells seek divorce because of her husband's activities on Ashley Madison? The answer to that is not clear, but Mr. Wells clearly is going through a period of upheaval.

Paul Wells has been vice president and division chief financial officer at Protective since 2007, when he was 33 years old. Here is how Jones described his career path in a 2013 interview with Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ):

After finishing graduate school, I worked in the audit practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers for five years. Spent four years in the finance department of Compass Bank and at Protective Life Corp. now for 6 years.

What does Wells find appealing about his profession?

I like being able to leverage my technical financial skills while also being involved in the various aspects of running our Life and Annuity business. Continually being exposed to dynamics outside my technical expertise keeps things interesting.

Amy Scotch Wells
(From facebook.com)
Wells has two children, Cody and Hayley, and images from his family life can be found at his ex-wife's Facebook page. (Amy Scotch Wells is a graduate of Briarwood Christian School and Samford University, and her family has helped develop a number of neighborhoods in north Shelby County.)

Did Ashley Madison provide the tools to tear apart the Wells family? We sought comment from Paul Wells for this post, but he has not responded.


(1) Edgar C. Gentle III -- attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

(2) Stewart Springer -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)

(3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)

(4) Robert M.N. Palmer -- attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)

(5) Thomas Plouff -- attorney, who is licensed in Alabama and has a practice in Chicago (3/17/16)

(9) Randy Bates -- executive VP and member of board of directors, Golden Flake (10/5/16)

(10) Reid Carpenter -- attorney, Lightfoot Franklin White, Birmingham (10/6/16)

(11) Scott Sink -- exec. VP, McGriff Seibels Williams, Birmingham (10/11/16)

(12) Russell Byrne -- VP for information systems, Bromberg's, Birmingham (10/17/16)

(13) Rob Waudby -- district manager, Skyline Steel, Birmingham (10/24/16)

Fighting back: Federal lawsuits seek justice for my unlawful arrest and incarcertion in Shelby County, plus the wrongful foreclosure on our home of 25 years

Liberty Duke
My wife, Carol, and I have filed two federal lawsuits in Alabama, seeking justice for the police beating and wrongful arrest that caused me to spend five months in jail -- and for the wrongful foreclosure on our home of 25 years in Birmingham.

The first case is styled Shuler, et al v. Liberty Duke, et al (Case No.: 2:16-cv-00501-RDP), and it was filed on March 26, 2016, in the Northern District of Alabama. Defendants in that case include lobbyist Liberty Duke, lawyers Rob Riley and Christina Crow, former Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry and three of his deputies, and former Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins.

Another defendant is U.S. Circuit Judge William H. "Bill" Pryor, so it should be a surprise to no one that we already have seen signs of judicial corruption in the case -- and service has not even been completed. (More on the actions of U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor in upcoming posts.) The complaint alleges violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments -- plus false arrest and imprisonment, excessive force, defamation, abuse of process, assault and battery, and more.

The second case is styled Shuler, et al v. Jessica Medeiros Garrison, et al (Case No. 2:;16-cv-00695-RDP), and it was filed on April 29, 2016, in the Northern District of Alabama. Defendants include attorneys Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Bill Baxley, and Robert Wermuth (and Huntsville law firm Stephens Millirons); Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange; Spartan Value Investors; JAG Investment Strategies; JPMorgan Chase Bank; Marie Claire magazine and Hearst Corporation; Yellowhammer News; al.com and Alabama Media Group; and more. The complaint alleges violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments; wrongful foreclosure; tortious interference; defamation; civil conspiracy; and more.

We filed both cases in forma pauperis, which refers to indigent status for which we quality, largely because of the actions alleged in these lawsuits -- and because of actions apparently taken by members of Riley Inc. to cheat us out of our jobs, at UAB and Infinity Insurance, respectively.

Signs of corruption are connected to our in forma pauperis status in the first case and are driven by multiple unlawful rulings -- and we are talking about rulings that are not even close to being correct -- by District Judge R. David Proctor. Again, details on that are coming soon.

The two complaints can be read below. (Note: The complaints seen here are identical to those filed in court, except they do not include a time stamp or our signatures. That's because we now live in Missouri and were not able to get time-stamped copies as we normally do when we file matters in person at the Hugo Black Courthouse in Birmingham. The time-stamped and signed versions can be viewed at PACER, which charges fees for viewing documents.)

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Curse of Columbiana: The shaky morals that could bring down "Luv Guv" Bentley and his flame might have their roots in his sleazy Shelby County hometown

Robert Bentley
In the aftermath of last week's announcement that an Alabama grand jury refused to file charges against former law-enforcement chief Spencer Collier, multiple reports said the news indicated "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley and chief advisor "Freaky Becky" Caldwell Mason were edging closer to the abyss. After all, Bentley, Mason and Co. had concocted charges of alleged wrongdoing against Collier, apparently to support their dubious decision to terminate him, and a grand jury -- which are famous for having such a low bar that they will "indict a ham sandwich" -- said, in essence, "There is no 'here' here."

The Bentley-Mason crowd appear to be next in line, and the decision on Collier suggests the grand jury might not look so favorably on the guv and his inamorata. Collier said Bentley used law enforcement as a "political tool"; perhaps the more accurate term would be "political weapon." John Archibald, columnist at al.com, said "Bentley's goose is cooked." Attorney Donald Watkins, writing at his Facebook page, agreed, calling Bentley "an evil man who uses political appointees and state resources to carry out personal vendettas against those who opposed and/or exposed his lawlessness."

That last part includes me, because I broke the story about the Bentley-Mason affair -- and Watkins and I did the heavy lifting on the scandal for months before the mainstream media arose from its stupor to realize our reporting was on target. In fact, multiple news accounts have Bentley and Mason making unlawful use of law-enforcement resources to target Watkins and me, in retaliation for having the audacity to practice journalism.

I had reasons to see the Bentley collapse coming, but like many others, I was conned by his grandfatherly demeanor and claims to be a heavy-duty Christian. In fact, I now must admit that I voted for Bentley -- the first Republican to get my vote in roughly 20 years, and hopefully the last one I ever will support. My wife, Carol, and I did not actually "support" Bentley. But we were among a sizable number of Democrats who crossed over in the primary to vote for Bentley in hopes of blocking Riley Inc. lackey Bradley Byrne -- and it worked.

We now know that Bentley's professorial exterior hides a dark and ugly soul. And I suspect its roots are in his hometown of Columbiana, the seat of Shelby County government and the place where I've spent a number of dismal and interminable days being cheated by various judges at the courthouse.

Corruption in Columbiana is so commonplace and deep-seated that I suspect it's impossible to grow up there -- or live there for any length of time -- without becoming warped, at least if you are among the town's elite. It's a place where everyone with white skin is expected to think alike, where the federally guaranteed rights to due process and equal protection are beaten, thrashed, and locked in the basement like unruly orphans. The people of Columbiana are like a tribe, the kind you find in a dysfunctional nation like Iraq. ("The Kurds today built a wall to protect their homeland of Columbiana from government forces. While they were at it, the Kurds helped kick the guts out of the Voting Rights Act. 'Negroes don't need to vote anymore,' the Kurds said in a prepared statement.") They march to their own Columbiana-made rules, while ignoring the laws of the land, which govern those of us outside the city limits. In blunt terms, they are un-American, among the most unpatriotic individuals you will find anywhere outside of Mississippi, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Downtown Columbiana, Alaama
Why should I have seen Bentley's ethical problems coming? Because we lived for 25 years in Shelby County, and any legal problem meant you had to take the roughly 50-mile round trip from the civilized part of Shelby County (closest to Birmingham) to the little hellhole of Columbiana, way to the South. Inevitably, a Shelby County judge (all Republicans in a town where everyone of the "Caucasian persuasion" is expected to think alike) would cheat us. It took us a while to realize how badly we were being cheated, but once we did, that gave rise to this blog, which has come to be rated among the top 50 law blogs in North America. (Notice how I like to drop that ranking into posts on a regular basis?)

Corruption is so entrenched in Robert Bentley's hometown that it can take on laughable forms. Consider two examples that Carol and I have experienced:

(1) Admit you are guilty of a crime and get found "not guilty"

Our legal woes started when we had the misfortune of having a career criminal named Mike McGarity move in next door to us. Our charming neighbor apparently hid his ugly past during the job screening process at his employer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. (In blunt terms, he likely lied on his job application, and the lax process at BC/BS let him get away with it.)

McGarity, his kids, and guests -- having already sassed us when we asked him to keep his barking coon hound under control ("You just need to get earplugs") -- proceeded to trespass on our property on an almost daily basis. When we called to let McGarity know his presence was not welcome on our yard, McGarity replied, "I'm going to sue you for harassment" and "we're going to keep on coming,"

When we asked a Birmingham lawyer named Bill Lewis to write a letter, explaining the law to this dunderhead, it seemed to have no effect. The trespassing continued, and the last line of Lewis' letter was, "You will receive no more warnings."

With all that in mind, we felt we had no choice but to pursue a case against McGarity for criminal trespassing, third degree. The alternative was to wait until someone got hurt on our property, have them sue us, and watch our homeowners-insurance premiums go through the roof. (Allowing trespassers to freely roam your property is a bad idea, for a lot of reasons, perhaps the biggest one is financial.)

District Judge Ron Jackson had encouraged both parties to work out a settlement, but McGarity refused to discuss it. That meant the case went to trial, and a transcript shows that McGarity confessed to the crime as charged. How do we know? Well, the elements of criminal trespassing, third degree, are about as straightforward and simple as law gets. Here they are, straight from Code of Alabama 13A-7-4:

(1) "A person commits the crime of trespass in the third degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises."

(2) "A person enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises when he is not licensed, invited or privileged to do so."

Our research indicates "licensed" refers to someone who has a professional reason to enter property, such as a meter reader. "Privileged" refers to someone who tries to address an unexpected occurrence. For example, if your hat flies off your head and lands in my yard, you have a right to retrieve it. "Invited," as it sounds, refers to someone who who has a good relationship with the owner and has reason to believe he is welcome to enter.

The transcript shows that McGarity admitted to entering our property, he made no claim to being licensed or privileged, and he made no claim that he was welcome. In fact, he admitted we had verbally warned him multiple times to stay off our property, along with others entering from his yard. Translation: McGarity admitted to the crime of criminal trespass, third degree.

Judge Jackson, however, found that -- in this instance -- we had to give McGarity written warning. We did that, of course, in the form of Bill Lewis' letter. But a woman from Lewis' office testified that she could not find the certifield-mail receipt that proved when McGarity received the letter. McGarity claimed he had not received the written warning prior to trespassing, and Jackson found that created enough reasonable doubt to acquit -- even though the judge essentially read McGarity the proverbial "riot act" from the bench about the dire consequences of any future trespassing.

We later discovered that Jackson got the law laughably wrong -- except it's not funny when you are the victim of a judge's corrupt rulings. Here is the actual law from a case styled Chambers v. City of Opelika, 698 So. 2d 792 (Ala. Crim. App., 1996):

The appellant has cited no authority for his position that to be guilty of criminal trespass the intruder must be aware that he or she had no license or privilege to enter or to remain on the premises. There is authority, however, that states that when those premises are private and not open to the public, there is no requirement that the prosecution prove that a prior written or verbal warning was given to the intruder.

In other words, we had no obligation to warn McGarity at all. We certainly did not have to warn him in writing, as Jackson found. The same holds true for any homeowner -- or renter, for that matter. It is the would-be intruder's duty to make sure he has lawful grounds to enter. McGarity never did that, and Jackson turned the law on its head in order to reach an "acquittal."

This is the kind of thing that happens with regularity in Robert Bentley's hometown.

(2) Present no evidence to support your case and still get a favorable result

Because of the acquittal, McGarity had minimal grounds to sue us for malicious prosecution, which means the underlying criminal case against him was brought with a complete absence of probable cause. In fact, McGarity had no legitimate grounds for a lawsuit because we had not only probable cause, but actual cause -- he admitted to trespassing, as charged.

Bill Swatek, McGarity's lawyer who has been disciplined by the Alabama State Bar at least three teams (including one suspension of his license) brought the case anyway. We hired Jesse P. Evans III and Michael Odom, then from the law firm Lange Simpson (now at Rumberger Kirk and Caldwell) and paid them more than $12,000 to represent us.

Evans and Odom prepared a Motion for Summary Judgment, complete with material evidence in the form of evidence from Carol, Bill Lewis, and me. McGarity was required by law to present an opposing motion, supported with material evidence, at least two days prior to the summary-judgment hearing. He presented no evidence, which means the Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner was required by law to grant summary judgment and dismiss McGarity's case on the day of the hearing.

Mike McGarity
McGarity presented a late affidavit, without seeking leave of court as required by law, and nothing in it was material to the case. The key point in such an affidavit should have been "I did not trespass on the Shuler's property." McGarity could not say that, of course, because he had admitted to trespassing in the criminal case, and we had a copy of the transcript. That was the second time Joiner was required to grant summary judgment, but he didn't do it.

We filed a second summary-judgment motion, focusing on new issues and evidence, and McGarity presented no response of any kind. The law is real clear in such situations, as expressed in a case styled Voyager Guar. Ins. Co., Inc. v. Brown 631 So. 2d 848 (Ala., 1993):

When a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment offers no evidence to contradict that presented by the movant, the trial court MUST consider the movant's evidence uncontroverted, with no genuine issue of material fact existing."

Three times, the law required Joiner to consider our evidence uncontroverted and that there was no genuine issue of material fact existing, meaning he had to grant summary judgment. He failed to follow the law three times, forcing us to go to a trial that could not be held and causing us to spend thousands in additional dollars on a case that already had been decided under the law.

Again, this is what serves as "justice" in Robert Bentley's hometown. Is it any wonder that he grew up to be, in the words of Donald Watkins, "an evil man who uses political appointees and state resources to carry out personal vendettas against those who opposed and/or exposed his lawlessness."

Speaking of political appointees, guess one of Bentley's first actions upon taking office in January 2011? He appointed J. Michael Joiner to a seat on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, where he still sits and played a prominent role in the removal of Chief Justice Roy Moore from the Alabama Supreme Court. (Note: If Roy Moore and his supporters could afford a good private investigator, they probably could come up with evidence of Joiner in any number of compromising positions.)

Did Bentley make the appointment because of Joiner's superior legal skills? Don't make me laugh. Joiner is one of the worst judges in the Southeast; he's unfit to judge pigs at a county fair. Bentley's action was the worst kind of cronyism. He appointed Joiner for no reason other than the two are from the same hometown, grew up in the same sheltered and dysfunctional culture, and spout the same phony beliefs in a religion that most real Christians would not recognize.

With Bentley and Joiner in statewide positions, they have helped spread the Curse of Columbiana to every corner of Alabama. Bentley's removal from office cannot happen fast enough -- and a semi-competent investigation would show that Joiner needs to be right behind him.

Ashley Madison customers revealed: Rob Waudby Jr., district manager for Skyline Steel and key player in huge public-works projects, appears at cheaters' site

Skyline Steel
The Birmingham-based district manager for an international steel company is among paying customers at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, records show.

Rob Waudby Jr. heads the South district for Skyline Steel, with an office at 4908 Cahaba River Road, Suite 200, in Birmingham.

Skyline Steel is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nucor Corporation, the largest producer of steel in the United States. Skyline serves markets in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and Colombia. It has 20 sales offices in North America, and Waudby heads the one based in Birmingham.

Waudby is married to Gretchen Waudby, and they live at 2764 Cherokee Road in Mountain Brook. According to public records, the assessed value of their home is roughly $400,000. Our guess is that the sales price, if the house were on the market, would be much higher than that.

Is Skyline Steel involved in some major projects? Consider this item from the news page at their Web site:

Gretchen Waudby (right)
(From facebook.com)
Working with Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure Group, Skyline Steel is providing steel for the largest design-build civil works project in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Reduction -- as it's officially named -- is a $695-million wall barrier designed to protect New Orleans from storm surges similar to that generated by Hurricane Katrina.
Skyline Steel is furnishing almost 18,000 tons of steel pipe (36" OD x .750 wall) to Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure Group for this massive two-mile long project. When the production and fabrication are complete, the steel pipe will be loaded on barges and transferred to a Shaw subsidiary in Delcambre, LA.

Skyline Steel is proud to be the steel supplier for such an elaborate, and important project that has the potential of impacting millions of people as well as the environment in a positive manner.

Can you imagine how much 18,000 tons of steel pipe cost? The figure probably would boggle the mind -- at least this mind.

As for Rob Waudby's activities at Ashley Madison, we sought comment from him for this story, but he had nothing to say for the record.


(1) Edgar C. Gentle III -- attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

(2) Stewart Springer -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)

(3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)

(4) Robert M.N. Palmer -- attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)

(5) Thomas Plouff -- attorney, who is licensed in Alabama and has a practice in Chicago (3/17/16)

(9) Randy Bates -- executive VP and member of board of directors, Golden Flake (10/5/16)

(10) Reid Carpenter -- attorney, Lightfoot Franklin White, Birmingham (10/6/16)

(11) Scott Sink -- exec. VP, McGriff Seibels Williams, Birmingham (10/11/16)

(12) Russell Byrne -- VP for information systems, Bromberg's, Birmingham (10/17/16)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Donald Trump likely is wrong about dark motives behind 2016 election, but many everyday Americans know that some U.S. systems are, in fact, "rigged"

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
(From businessinsider.com)
Lost amid discussion about Donald Trump's failure at last night's presidential debate to promise he would accept 2016 election results is this: Trump, though he surely did not realize it, actually had a point.

Trump's statement that he would keep us in "suspense" on the election-results issue caused many pundits' heads to spin, but it should not have been a surprise. It grew from Trump's pre-debate claims that the race is "rigged" in Hillary Clinton's favor.

The Trump claim is nonsensical on at least two levels; (1) We've seen zero evidence that this particular election is rigged; (2) When events are rigged in the United States, they almost never harm rich, white, conservative guys like Trump; they tend to be the riggers, not the riggees.

Despite that, Trump has provided a public service, in a roundabout way, by raising the "r word." That's because parts of American officialdom are rigged, especially in our so-called justice system. My wife, Carol, and I have seen it firsthand. So have many of the people I've reported about on this blog -- women like Sherry Rollins, Linda Upton, and Bonnie Cahalane in divorce cases; a man like Dr. Mark Hayden in a business/estate case; a man like VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor in a string of gaming-related cases; even a former governor, Don Siegelman of Alabama, in perhaps the most grotesque political prosecution in American history.

(Speaking of Siegelman, do you think he believes American elections can be stolen -- in other words, rigged -- after votes for him disappeared overnight in the 2002 race against Bob Riley? What about Sonny Hornsby, the Alabama chief justice candidate in 1994 who perhaps was the first victim of an election that was manipulated by Karl Rove? What about Al Gore supporters in 2000 and John Kerry supporters in 2004, who likely saw results in single states -- Florida and Ohio, respectively -- lead to the calamitous George W. Bush presidency? Bottom line: Donald Trump almost certainly has no grounds to believe the 2016 election is rigged against him -- his own missteps have been plenty to make him a loser -- but American election results should not be seen as sacrosanct; they can be subject to tampering.)

What about those instances when a rigged system has worked against Carol and me? I could write a multi-volume book on that, but let's focus on one element, of one case, in our legal odyssey.

In a letter dated October 31, 2013, eight days after I was arrested for writing this blog and thrown in the Shelby County Jail, Birmingham attorney David Gespass revealed stunning information. GOP political operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke had -- contrary to law -- asked for the case file to be sealed. That meant Carol and I largely were in the dark about a case that caused Alabama deputies to barge into our home and essentially kidnap me -- I use that term because the cops showed no warrant, did not mention a warrant, and did not even state their purpose for being on our property before beating me up and dousing me with pepper spray.

Gespass -- who visited me twice in jail, although he never offered any strategies for addressing the injustice I had experienced -- apparently managed to review the file. (I assume by contacting Rob Riley or his lawyers, members of Riley's firm.) Consider just one sentence from the third paragraph of Gespass' letter: (The full letter is embedded at the end of this post.)

First of all, both the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction (the latter is now in effect, but both say the same things) appear to have been issued before service was effected. . . . 

Let's briefly deal with two preliminary matters before addressing our main point:

(1) More than 200 years of First Amendment law hold that both a TRO and preliminary injunction are unlawful in a case of alleged defamation;

(2) A TRO lawfully can be issued prior to notice or service to the defendant. But that simply cannot happen with a preliminary injunction, in any kind of legal case. In fact, Alabama law holds that a preliminary injunction cannot be considered, much less issued, if the opposing party has had no opportunity to submit evidence, call witnesses -- all the elements we know as due process in the United States. (See Southern Homes v. Bermuda Lakes.)

Now, back to our main point, and the mind-blowing words from Gespass' letter. According to Gespass, a preliminary injunction had been issued against Carol and me BEFORE SERVICE WAS EFFECTED.

David Gespass
Those aren't my claims; those are from an attorney -- one I do not like, and for whom, I have zero respect -- based on his review of the court's own hidden files. Gespass' words show that the court took action against Carol and me when we had not been served -- and without service, the court had no authority over us.

A legal case can't get much more "rigged" than that. It was decided in favor of one party before the other party even was given notice of the lawsuit, before the case had even started.

And get this: David Gespass, to my knowledge, has not done or said one thing to expose such an outrage -- even though Gespass has a duty under the ethical guidelines of his profession to report wrongdoing by his fellow members of the bar. Like most lawyers, it appears, Gespass is more interested in covering up injustice than exposing it.

As for Donald Trump, he seriously thinks he knows what it's like to face a system that is rigged against you? Carol and I really know what that's like -- and so do many of the people I've written about on this blog.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Missouri Democrat Jason Kander has violated multiple laws while taking lead over Roy Blunt in key race to control U.S. Senate, newly released documents show

Jason Kander
(From pitch.com)
A candidate in one of the nation's most-watched 2016 U.S. Senate races engaged in fund-raising fraud, theft by deceit of more than $2 million, and other campaign violations, according to documents that an anonymous citizens' group has compiled.

Democrat Jason Kander is on the verge of what one newspaper calls an "astonishing upset" of Republican incumbent Roy Blunt in the race for a U.S. Senate seat from Missouri. The outcome of the race could help decide which party controls the Senate, beginning in January 2017.

A 127-page document called The Kander Memo, dated September 20 and distributed by a group of Missouri citizens to at least seven government oversight bodies, provides extensive evidence that Kander and his wife, Diana Kagan Kander, have violated multiple federal and state criminal laws. (The full Kander Memo is embedded at the end of this post.)

Less than one week ago, Kansas City Star columnist Steve Kraske, wrote that Kander stood "on the brink of an astonishing upset" of Blunt, who has held the Senate seat for six years and represented Missouri's 7th Congressional District for 14 years prior to that. Nate Silver, of fivethirtyeight.com, now projects Kander to win the race, with an almost 60 percent likelihood of victory.

Andrew Kreig, writing at the Justice-Integrity Project, puts the allegations against the Kanders into perspective:

A Kander victory in the Missouri Senate race over incumbent first-term Republican Sen. Roy Blunt has the potential to help deliver Senate control to Democrats, who now trail Republicans 46-54 (counting independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont in support of the Democratic caucus.

Therefore, the many serious new allegations against Kander and his wife . . . have both state and national importance.

Kreig notes that authors of The Kander Memo have "called on authorities and lawyers nationwide to investigate lawbreaking — and file class-action lawsuits to reimburse alleged fraud victims in every state from the actions described in the documents." Kreig sought comment from Jason and Diana Kander, and his campaign officials, but they did not respond to queries.

How serious could The Kander Memo prove to be? It raises questions about the ethical underpinnings of a campaign in perhaps the nation's most important Congressional race. The heavily sourced memo, which includes an appendix of more than 30 pages, focuses on two primary fund-raising efforts that it calls "ostensibly criminal schemes":

Fraud and The New York Times Bestseller List

Beginning in spring 2014, evidence shows the Kanders operated an Internet "crowdfunding" effort to raise online charitable donations. But the memo alleges the Kanders used the money, more than $31,000, to buy new-author Diana Kander's way onto The New York Times bestseller list. In fact, amazon.com promotes Ms. Kander's book, All In Startup: Launching a New Idea When Everything Is On the Line, as part of the prestigious New York Times lists, and the book is promoted as such at the author's Web site, dianakander.com.

How did this benefit the Kanders and Jason Kander's U.S. Senate campaign. From The Kander Memo:

The success of the Kander scheme has: (1) Provided the Kanders with a ruse to represent to the American public and Missouri voters that Diana Kander is "a New York Times Bestselling Author," when the truth is the Kanders used a deceptive scheme to raise money from the public in order to help Diana Kander buy her way onto those prestigious bestseller lists; (2) Empowered Diana Kander to break into the lucrative U.S. "Public-Speakers Circuit" so she can now pocket substantial speaker fees as a purported "New York Times Bestselling Author"; and (3) Enabled the Kanders to use the public contributions they collected from their Internet "crowdfunding" campaign in order to make the Kanders look . . .  more prestigious and more accomplished, and to help Jason Kander win election to the United States Senate. 

The plan, according to The Kander Memo, is built on inside knowledge about the publishing industry:

In 2014, when the Kanders embarked on this scheme, they calculated that if the wife of a U.S. Senate candidate was a "New York Times Bestselling Author," then this prestige could boost her husband's political campaign and help him win a U.S. Senate seat. It is a "dirty little secret" in the U.S. book-publishing industry that a new author can buy his or her way onto America's most prestigious bestseller lists. It is a scheme that costs between $150,000 and $300,000, depending on certain circumstances. The money is used to buy the author's new book in strategic, large-bulk units -- bulk purchases timed shortly after the new book is officially released.

Some people think if you spend your own money to buy your way onto a bestseller list, then it is not illegal. That's incorrect, but it's beside the point. By seeking to fund their scheme by soliciting online public donations via their "crowdsourcing" campaign, the Kanders scheme of 2014 clearly crosses the criminal line -- in fact, several criminal lines.

According to The Kander Memo, the book effort likely violated solicitation-registration and felony anti-fraud statutes in every U.S. jurisdiction -- federal and state.  It also likely violated statutes in all 50 states that make it a crime to commit, or attempt to commit, theft by deceit. From the memo:

[This] is not only an audacious and shameless scheme, it is a patently criminal scheme . . . a "50-state crime spree."

Raise Your Hands For Kids? 

Since fall 2014, according to the memo, Jason Kander has controlled a Missouri nonprofit corporation called "Raise Your Hands for Kids" (RYH4K). Kander and close accomplices directed this "kids" organization to serve as an advocacy group to promote a ballot initiative in Missouri also called Raise Your Hands for Kids. Kander and Co. collected more than $5 million in corporate and individual contributions -- including more than $2 million from individual Missourians.

What does this mean? The memo explains:

Because RYH4K is, in fact, a "candidate controlled" ballot measure committee (CCBMC) . . . , this allowed U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander, and accomplices, to treat [RYH4K] as candidate Kander's $5-million political "slush fund," to use as Kander deems best to further his political candidacy and personal ambition . . . .  

This touches on issues that have concerned election experts for years. From The Kander Memo:

By controlling RYH4K, candidate Kander has contrived a scheme to solicit and collect corporate and individual donations . . . for a Missouri "public service" organization. Kander then converts those charitable donations into money used to help him win a U.S. Senate election -- in essence, transforming those charitable . . . donations into political donations. . . . This confirms the worst fears of several nonprofit experts who have, for two decades now, warned that political candidates have increasingly used, abused, and exploited nonprofit and charitable organizations for their own personal and political benefits.

What is the potential fallout from this? According to the memo, Kander's actions violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, 52 U.S. Code 30101 But the plot takes even more twists and turns. Authors of The Kander Memo allege that the candidate's associates are funneling donations from RYH4K into another nonprofit called "Alliance for Childhood Education" (ACE), which allegedly is controlled by a Kander ally in Johnson City, Kansas. It appears that RYH4K essentially has become a fund-raising arm of ACE.

Diana Kander
(From bizjournals.com)
That could help turn political affiliation on its head. In this case, it appears that a Democrat is duping Republican donors. But the reverse could be true in other cases. From the memo:

Imagine all those Republicans in Missouri who donated their charitable dollars to RYH4K, only to later find out that their donations were transmorgrified into support for candidate Jason Kander's political campaign and efforts to defeat the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.  

The Kander-Blunt race figures to remain in the spotlight right up until election day. But The Kander Memo suggests a darker story, maybe a more important story, is running beneath the surface.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

President of Alabama GOP women's group strongly supports Trump, proving that conservative rhetoric about "family values" has been a hoax all along

Donald Trump
(From alreporter.com)
Count me among the liberals who long have suspected the whole "family values" plank of the Republican platform was a fraud, one designed to con church-goers into voting for a party whose policies consistently cause them to lose economic ground.

Now, the head of a GOP women's group in Alabama has helped prove that our suspicions were correct. Frances Taylor, president of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women (AFRW) explains in an op-ed piece "Why I Strongly Support Trump." It's possible Trump's circus-act of a campaign will kill, once and for all, the whole "family values" canard. If that happens, he will have done us all a favor.

Without getting too harsh on Ms. Taylor, her column is pure claptrap. It's a regurgitation of the usual right-wing talking points on jobs, ISIS, border security, Obamacare, and regulation. Then it dives into a pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible statements and actions that have been attributed to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in recent days. These include, of course, his recorded comments about trying to f--k a married a woman and grabbing women by the p---y. Writes Taylor:

Do we like the words that he used in the recording? No. Plain and simple, no. Do we believe in today’s society and today’s culture that the words are shocking? No. Does anyone expect us to be apoplectic over a braggadocios conversation among two men who are private citizens more than ten years ago? No.

He apologized – we accept the imperfections of others, we find forgiveness, we look at the context of the conversation and can move on. Yes, other questions linger. Why isn’t there fury at the pay for play scheme she had going as Secretary of State with the Clinton Foundation? Why isn’t there fury at the gifts from countries who suppress women’s rights and promote terrorism? Why wasn’t there this level of fury when the Democrat nominee finally – and I do mean finally – apologized for using a private server that put our national security at risk and put people in harm’s way?

You can see where this is going. It's called "When you can't defend your guy, blame the other guy (or gal)." It's also called "your guy must be 'forgiven,' no matter how grotesque his sins, while the other guy (or gal) must never be forgiven, even if it isn't clear she's done anything wrong."

How nutty is it? Johnny Norris, a Birmingham attorney and writer of the Blue Southerner blog, responded with a piece titled "Women Voting for Trump Is Like Jews Voting for Hitler." Writes Norris:

A major party presidential candidate bragging about using his authority and his fame to get away with criminal sexual assaults on women is beyond shocking. It is unprecedented. It is outrageous. And it is a sickening affront to humanity in general and the victimized women in particular.

Shame on you, Frances Taylor. Your desire to put a sexual predator in the White House makes you a traitor to your gender. Your position bears some similarity to that of a German Jew who had read Mein Kampf voting for Hitler in 1933. The difference is that Hitler promised in his terrible book to exterminate the Jewish people, and Trump just wants to grab all the pussies he can get away with.

Taylor's words become even more disturbing when you pay a visit to the AFRW Web site. If you click on the "About AFRW" section, you will find this:

The Alabama Federation of Republican Women is a partner with all Americans who believe in family values, individual initiative, limited government, low taxes, free enterprise, fiscal responsibility, and honest and accountable government. Our goal is to foster the principles of America’s founding fathers and to elect Republicans that share our values and goals.

Did I see "family values" listed as the No. 1 principle GOP women hold dear? Did I see that the AFRW is committed to electing Republicans who share such "values"?

Frances Taylor
(From afrw.org)
Are the GOP women unaware that Trump is twice divorced and working on wife No. 3, and he has bragged on an open mic about trying to cheat on her? This is the man with the kind of "family values" they can support? Surely, you can't be serious. (And yes, I need to stop calling you Shirley.)

If you click on the "Why I'm a Republican" link at the AFRW site, you will find President Taylor's welcoming message, which states in part:
We are a group of women over 1,500 strong who believe in the principles of smaller government, lower taxes and the exercise of our God-given rights to freedom and liberty.

How are women supposed to exercise their God-given right to freedom and liberty when men like Donald Trump are holding them back by shoving tongues down their throats, grabbing their butts, groping their breasts, and grabbing their p-----s? Are Republican women driven by the desires of the "Fondling Fathers," or the principles of the Founding Fathers?

Frances Taylor doesn't look like a ding-a-ling, so we can only assume she knows her little group is about electing Republicans, no matter how vile and vulgar they may be. She seems to be admitting that whole "family values" spin game means no more to her than it does to us.

Rebekah Caldwell Mason, advisor and mistress to Gov. Robert Bentley, reportedly helped plant false information designed to smear former ALEA chief

Gov. Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
(From nytimes.com)
(Updated at 9:57 a.m. on 10/18/16, to include 61-page portion of report regarding allegations against former ALEA chief Spencer Collier.)

The Robert Bentley administration has released a second document dump to a legislative committee overseeing possible impeachment proceedings -- and the material includes false information about alleged efforts to delete or alter visitor log-in sheets at the Governor's mansion, according to a new post from Alabama Political Reporter (APR).

At the heart of the scheme, according to APR, is Bentley's advisor and mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason, who announced her resignation in late March, but reportedly remains very much a part of the governor's inner circle. Mason's plan was designed to smear former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) chief Spencer Collier, who has sued Bentley, Mason and others over his termination earlier this year.

How did the latest Bentley/Mason scam take shape? Reports APR's Bill Britt:

The latest round of accusations shows Collier supposedly asking Bentley’s then-body-man Ray Lewis to delete or alter log-in sheets at the Governor’s mansion. Sign-in/sign-out logs are kept at the Governor’s mansion, as well as at the Blount Estate and beach property, as one of the security protocol’s to ensure the Governor’s safety.

Out of over 10,000 pages Bentley’s office say were turned over to the committee, at least 61 pages were secreted away in a scheme staffer’s link to the Governor’s alleged mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

The 61-page portion of the report can be viewed at the end of this post. It originally was published at WAAY TV.

Dianne Bentley, who divorced the governor roughly one year ago, raised concerns about visitor logs, not Collier, according to APR sources:

According to a former law enforcement agent, the questions about sign-in logs arose from Mrs. Bentley’s suspicions that her husband of 50 years was continuing a romantic relation with the married Mason, even after he had assured her it was over.

“In late 2014, Bentley convinced his wife he was no longer involved romantically with Mrs. Mason,” said the former trooper, “but she checked the records and had him dead to rights.”

According to these sources, Mrs. Bentley confided to Lewis that she had concerns about logs being altered or destroyed, in an attempt to cover the Governor’s sordid liaison with Mason. Lewis, out of his concern for Mrs. Bentley, inquired about the situation and found that inquiries about the logs were related to ALEA’s paperless security technology initiative and nothing more.

How ugly could all of this get? The answer appears to be: "Pretty darned ugly." Writes Britt:

When confronted about the sign-in logs, Bentley became furious and demanded the security protocol be stopped immediately. However, it was continued under Collier’s term despite Bentley’s order.

Current and former ALEA staff see this latest “data dump” as a continuation of the previous smears by Bentley and Mason.

One current Bentley staffer, speaking anonymously (for fear of retaliation) said, “Rebekah is vindictive and petty, but the Governor lets her do as she pleases and we have to fall in line or be fired,” adding, “I need this job, but I am terrified of what comes next.”

What comes next may be the result of a special grand jury impaneled in Montgomery County.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ashley Madison customers revealed: Russell Byrne, IT exec at Bromberg's, is married to RealtySouth agent, but still was drawn to notorious Web site

Russell and Stephanie Byrne
(From facebook.com
(In the previous installment in our Ashley Madison series, about Birmingham insurance executive Scott Sink, I inadvertently deleted two comments from Anonymous @5:16. I found the deleted comments and have replaced them at the bottom of the comment list on the post. @5:16 identified herself as a female commenter, and that is all I know about her, but her comments were insightful, and I wanted to make sure they were published if I could correct my mistake. In fact, @5:16 raised a number of points I would like to talk with her about. If @5:16 sees this message and feels comfortable doing so, please call me at 205-381-5673. I promise to protect your confidentiality; in fact, you don't even have to give me your name if you don't want to. Thanks, and I apologize to all readers for the mistake.)

The vice president for information systems at perhaps Alabama's best-known jewelry and giftware store is among paying customers at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site, records show.

Russell Byrne, a high-ranking executive at Bromberg's, is part of the family that has owned and operated the high-end jeweler since 1836. Byrne is the grandson of the late Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hurter Bromberg, of Birmingham.

Byrne's wife, Stephanie Hembree Byrne, is a graduate of the University of Alabama (as is her husband), where she had interests in television production, theater, and the UA Young Entrepreneurial Society. She now works as an agent at RealtySouth.

Based on Stephanie Hembree Byrne's Facebook page, the couple appears to have two children, and they live on Dexter Avenue in Mountain Brook, in a home valued at more than $400,000. Russell Byrne also has a Facebook page, and he appears to be heavily into outdoor activities.

Thomas Russell Byrne (his full name) appears to have a lot going for him. In fact, he was born with a significant leg up on most members of society. But he still found the need to fool around on Ashley Madison.

We don't know why because Mr. Byrne has failed to respond to our queries.


(1) Edgar C. Gentle III -- attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

(2) Stewart Springer -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)

(3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)

(4) Robert M.N. Palmer -- attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)

(5) Thomas Plouff -- attorney, who is licensed in Alabama and has a practice in Chicago (3/17/16)

(9) Randy Bates -- executive VP and member of board of directors, Golden Flake (10/5/16)

(10) Reid Carpenter -- attorney, Lightfoot Franklin White, Birmingham (10/6/16)

(11) Scott Sink -- exec. VP, McGriff Seibels Williams, Birmingham (10/11/16)

What did required counseling and hospital tests show about Missouri deputy who brutalized my wife and broke her arm during unlawful eviction in Sept. 2015?

Missouri Sheriff Jim Arnott
The Missouri sheriff's deputy who brutalized my wife, Carol, and broke her arm during an unlawful eviction roughly one year ago (on September 9, 2015), was required to engage in counseling and visit a hospital for tests. Did such counseling and tests actually take place, and what did they reveal? Did they show that the deputy suffered any injuries, given that Sheriff Jim Arnott was on the scene and caused Carol to be arrested and imprisoned after pointing at her and stating, "She assaulted a police officer"?

Those are two of many questions raised by the Greene County Sheriff's Office Policy and Procedure Manual, which spells out a lengthy and detailed set of steps that must be completed to determine if a deputy involved in a "critical incident" acted reasonably and is fit to return to duty.

The manual calls for parallel criminal and administrative investigations to be conducted of any "critical incident" (use of force, involving any sheriff's department employee, resulting in serious bodily injury or death to any person.) Policy calls for a thorough examination of an involved officer's physical and emotional status. Consider the following required step (see page 113 of manual):

Involved Deputy will remain close to the scene with their Support Deputy until the Administrative Investigator directs them to the hospital for the required exams.

This also is from page 113:

Involved Deputies shall receive a mandated counseling from a GCSO appointed mental health professional. Additional counseling may be provided by the Sheriff or his designee.

According to the manual, any critical incident should produce a significant paper trail. Here are some of the required steps in the administrative process (see pages 110-119 of manual):

* Involved Deputies shall provide a brief Public Safety statement about the actions of the suspect(s) that shall aid investigators in the criminal prosecution of suspect(s);

* Involved Deputies will write an incident report to aid investigators in the criminal prosecution of the suspect(s). This incident report will be completed at a time mandated by the Involved Deputy’s Division Command, usually after two full sleep cycles;

* Involved Deputies will prepare a Subject Resistance and Control Report;

* Involved Deputies will be required to give a statement to the Administrative Investigator;

* Involved Deputies will submit to any/or all of the following: blood, urine, breath or other chemical test as requested by the Administrative Investigator;

* Involved Deputies shall submit to a polygraph examination if requested by the Administrative Investigator;

* Prior to returning to duty the Involved Deputy will be required to take a Fit for Duty Exam at the expense of the employer;

* The Criminal Investigator shall ensure the scene is properly documented, photographed and diagrammed;

* The Criminal Investigator shall ensure that all evidence is properly processed and collected, including any equipment or weapon belonging to the Involved Deputy that is needed as part of the investigation;

* The Criminal Investigator shall ensure interviews of witnesses, victims, Involved Deputy(s), and when applicable suspect(s), including providing Miranda warnings, even to the Involved Deputy.

By our unofficial count, that's at least 10 documents, statements, or objects (or groups of objects) that should be gathered in the investigation. But the Criminal Investigator's duties still are not completed. (And that does not include duties of the Administrative Investigator, which are spelled out on page 117.) As for the Criminal Investigator, the manual states that he . . .

* Shall review and ensure all involved/responding deputy(s) reports are accurate, correct and approved;

* Shall provide any and all material to the Administrative Investigator from the criminal investigation and will not expose themselves to the statements and evidence obtained during the administrative investigation;

* Shall assemble and prepare a case file for CID Supervisor, Major(s), and Sheriff’s review and approval;

* Upon the appropriate internal review and approval, shall contact and provide the Greene County Prosecutor a copy of the case file, with original probable cause statements where applicable.

Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson
As you can see, there should be a nice, neat case file for key officials in the sheriff's office, with a copy for the Greene County prosecutor.

It appears the county prosecutor receives a copy for purposes of bringing charges against the suspect (in this case, Carol). But the sheriff's own actions--releasing her from jail, upon learning she had a serious bodily injury; giving no indication since then that she committed any offense--suggest the county prosecutor has no role involving Carol.

But what about the officer's brutality against Carol? What about Arnott's decision to falsely claim she had assaulted an officer, causing her wrongful arrest and imprisonment? Those generally are considered civil-rights issues to be handled by federal law-enforcement.

Has the county prosecutor, a fellow named Dan Patterson, referred the matter for possible federal prosecutions against the deputy and Arnott? That appears to be what the facts and the law call for. Do facts and the law mean anything in Springfield, Missouri -- any more than they do in Birmingham, Alabama?