Leaderboard 728 X 90

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sheriff Targets Blogger Who Broke Bill Pryor Gay Porn Story In County That Led Charge to Gut Voting Rights Act



Judge Bill Pryor
Shelby County, Alabama, played a central role in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA)

Chief Justice John Roberts, in authoring the opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, said our country has changed, implying that places like Shelby County are much more enlightened now than they were in 1965. 


That might be true, to an extent. But anyone who thinks Shelby County is a bastion of forward thinking--where people of all colors, religions, genders, and political affiliations are treated fairly and equally under the law--might want to view the video at the end of this post.


It was filmed during one of at least four visits that sheriff's deputies made to my home in Shelby County last week. Why are deputies suddenly so interested in the house that my wife and I have owned since 1990. As I reported on Friday, I can think of no legitimate law-enforcement purpose for the visit. And why are two and three deputies involved, with multiple vehicles?


I can only conclude, at this point, that it's part of an intimidation and harassment campaign driven by my recent reports here at Legal Schnauzer about photos of U.S. Judge Bill Pryor that appeared in the 1990s at a gay porn site called badpuppy.com.


The intimidation campaign drew the attention of the national press this weekend when Alan Colmes' Liberland blog wrote a piece titled, "Is A Whistleblowing Alabama Blogger Being Harassed by Law Enforcement?" From the article:



Roger Shuler’s blog Legal Schnauzer has not shied away from turning over a few rocks to reveal scandal in Alabama’s political and judicial arenas. He recently revealed what his sources confirm to be a photograph of 11th Circuit Court Justice William Pryor that had been posted to gay porn site badpuppy.com — and the story has gone viral (as have not one but two provocative follow-ups). In what seems to be a bit more than coincidence, Shuler had several unexpected visitors earlier this week that may be tied to a different bit of darkness upon which he shed a bit too much sunshine for a couple GOP players’ taste.

The Colmes blog notes the thuggish appearance of the deputies' actions, which were caught on video in Friday's post--and again at the end of this post:



Yes, the multiple vehicle schtick is overkill. It’s not much of a stretch to conclude that Shuler, a legal blogger with a growing following, is being harassed by people who are none too happy with his reporting — but also neither smart nor savvy when it comes to the power of the Internet and social media.

As for Shelby County v. Holder, it focused primarily on America's historic racial divide. But the VRA is part of an almost 50-year effort to ensure civil rights for all Americans, especially those who might seem different for any number of reasons.

Consider your humble blogger. I am a white, male Protestant with no disabilities, so I would seem to fit into the mainstream. But I also am a liberal in a county that is overwhelmingly conservative--in a state that has largely been taken over by one-party Republican rule. 


To make me even more of an oddball here, I am a journalist, with a degree in the field and more than 30 years of professional experience. That proved useful when my wife and I experienced a colossal cheat job in Shelby County court--started when a neighbor with an extensive criminal record filed a bogus lawsuit against me over a property-related matter--and that inspired me to start a blog about legal and political corruption.


How did that go over with the Shelby Count power structure, which has been dominated for years by members of the GOP? Not too well, especially when I went beyond personal issues to report on political prosecutions during the George W. Bush years, such as the ones involving former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former Mississippi plaintiffs' lawyer Paul Minor.


Conservative forces were not just angry about Legal Schnauzer; they decided to make me pay, by cheating me out of my job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where I had worked as an editor for almost 20 years. That was in May 2008, and the same forces (or their associates) cheated my wife out of her job at Infinity Insurance in September 2009.


How do I know political and legal entities were behind this? For one reason, a member of UAB's human-resources staff admitted to me in a tape recorded conversation that I was targeted because of my reporting on the Siegelman case. (You can check out a video on that subject here.)


Now, I seem to have committed another sin against conservative orthodoxy by revealing that Bill Pryor, he of the uber right-wing views and the controversial Bush-era nomination,  

has connections to the gay porn scene of the 1990s.

I have reported extensively on corruption in the Shelby County Sheriff's Department under Chris Curry. In fact, Curry's band of rogues is largely responsible for a bogus sheriff's deed that has been our house since 2008. (You can check out videos of the sheriff's sale here.) 


Experience has taught me that Sheriff Curry and his crew are lawless thugs. And I'm not the only one who seems to hold that opinion. We are aware of several federal lawsuits that allege racial discrimination against the department during Curry's tenure. We will be reporting on those cases in a series of upcoming posts.


Is Shelby County a uniformly awful place? Not at all--or Mrs. Schnauzer and I would  not have lived here for 23 years. Here is what I wrote about my home area back in June, after the Roberts court issues its ruling on the VRA case:


What kind of place is Shelby County, Alabama, in 2013? And in terms of justice issues (such as voting), should the public be confident the rule of law will prevail in this burgeoning area south of Birmingham?
As a resident of Shelby County since 1990, I feel qualified to take a crack at those questions. What are my answers? Well, Shelby County is a prosperous, pretty place that features lots of gorgeous trees, mountains, and bodies of water--I can throw a rock from my backyard and almost hit the natural splendor of Oak Mountain State Park. The county, especially in the northern section closest to Birmingham, features numerous fine places to shop and dine, with some of the most attractive neighborhoods you will find anywhere.
But what about those pesky justice issues? In that regard, Shelby County is a cesspool. The county seat is in a little hellhole called Columbiana, and when you take one step into the city limits, it's as if you've entered a time warp and gone back to . . . oh, about 1912.

Like most Americans, I am thankful for the genuine progress our country has made since the VRA was passed almost 50 years ago. But are we really out of the woods on matters of discrimination? Should we be confident that the rule of law will protect civil rights for all? Are local law-enforcement agencies filled with enlightened protectors of the constitution--or glorified brown shirts?

We invite you to take a look at the following video, filmed last Thursday, and decide for yourselves:




Dothan Blogger Rickey Stokes Admits He Fell Victim To Bill Baxley Con Job On Luther Strange/Jessica Garrison Affair



An Alabama blogger admits in an online forum that Birmingham attorney Bill Baxley hoodwinked him about our coverage of an extramarital affair involving Attorney General Luther Strange and former campaign aide Jessica Medeiros Garrison.

Rickey Stokes, editor of Dothan-based RickeyStokesNews.com (RSN), writes in a post dated August 17 that our reports at Legal Schnauzer on the Strange/Garrison affair are "highly questionable." Stokes said he reached that conclusion after conversations with two sources, one of whom Stokes said he "would trust with my life in his hands."


We noted in a post dated August 21 that Stokes likely fell victim to a Bill Baxley con job. What was the con? We stated that Baxley, a member of a prominent Dothan family, probably was the source for Stokes' post. We further stated that Baxley probably did not disclose that he represented Jessica Garrison and had sent two letters to me threatening a lawsuit on her behalf.


In a comment posted to wiregrasslive.com at 1:48 p.m. on September 1, Stokes confirms that our suspicions were right on target: Bill Baxley was the source of his post claiming our reporting was "highly questionable"--and Baxley did not disclose his personal stake in the matter, via his threatened lawsuit on Jessica Garrison's behalf. (See the full Stokes comment at the end of this post.)


Translation: Bill Baxley blew copious amounts of smoke up Rickey Stokes' anal cavity--and Stokes fell for it.


To my knowledge, Stokes is yet to print a retraction of a story that originated with a self-serving, ill-informed source. But Stokes did pipe up when a number of commenters at wiregrasslive.com questioned his reporting on the Strange/Garrison affair. Stokes provided background on how his post took life, and here is part of that explanation, with no editing on my part:



I have not read each post on this topic or Legal Schnauzer. I have read some of them. And yes as Catfish said I am at the lake. In fact I am sitting at boat ramp where I just unloaded my son and his friends into the river for them to take a river run towards Columbia.
As to the Dothan Baxley family contacting me about the article, the answer is NO. As to Bill Baxley and I having a telephone conversation over this matter, yes. My entire adult life I have known Bill and Wade Baxley. I started in 1977, just prior to my starting Baxley had been the District Attorney in Houston and Henry County. At the time, the political party you run on was Democrat, and Wade Baxley was Chairman of the Democractic Party in Houston County. Wade was also on the Houston County Personnel Board when I went to the and got a Cadet Deputy Sheriff Program started where you could get paid to work. I was a dispatcher with the Sheriff Department after school, worked 3 PM to 11 PM and was paid. So I have known them for years. My wife growing up lived next door to Bill and Lucy Baxley.
That relationship is what resulted in the phone call. And yes, after a conversation with Bill explaining some things to me, not that he was filing a lawsuit against anyone, but answering some questions, resulted in my article.

Another translation:  When Baxley felt the need to discredit a journalist--in a case where the journalist's reporting is absolutely on target--he turned to a blogger from his hometown. Baxley probably figured that blogger would accept most everything he said at face value--and Stokes proved that Baxley was correct.

Bloggers are not real fond of admitting they were wrong--and they are even less fond of admitting they were conned. So I am not surprised that Rickey Stokes has failed to retract his bogus story. I'm guessing that Stokes feels chastened by the turn of events, and that seems apparent in his rambling, roundabout comment at wiregrasslive.com.

The bigger issue, in my view, involves the actions of Bill Baxley, who is a member of the bar and an "officer of the court." Let's consider a few questions that grow out of Baxley's behavior:

* If Baxley truly believes Jessica Garrison had no affair with Luther Strange, why was he deceptive about his connections to Ms. Garrison? Stokes makes it clear that Baxley did not tell him about his participation in a threatened lawsuit. This is less clear, but it appears that Baxley did not disclose to Stokes that he represented Garrison. We now know, for sure, that Bill Baxley was not fully up front with a blogger from his hometown. Why?

* If Baxley truly believes Jessica Garrison had no affair with Luther Strange, why did he not present Ms. Garrison for Stokes to interview? As a lawyer, political operative and former campaign manager, Jessica Garrison certainly has a voice. She has put herself in the public arena and made herself a statewide figure--and she is somewhat of a national figure via her role in the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). Baxley could have said, "Hey Rickey, meet Jessica--and she would be glad to answer any questions you might have about her relationship with Luther Strange." Why didn't that happen?

* Baxley has leveled charges of defamation against me, but what about his own actions? What about Jessica Garrison's liability if she authorized Baxley's conversation with Rickey Stokes? What about Rickey Stokes' liability?

We don't know for sure what was said in the Baxley/Stokes discussion, but that can be revealed in the litigation process. It seems apparent, however, that Baxley claimed my reporting was inaccurate, unprofessional, and driven by malicious intent. Baxley did this while hiding some, or all, of his connection to Jessica Garrison. Stokes proceeded to write that it was "unfair" for me to "make up something that is not true."

What kind of liability might Mr. Baxley, Ms. Garrison, and Mr. Stokes have toward a journalist they have defamed?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Law Enforcement Pays Multiple Visits To Blogger's House Following Reports About Judge Bill Pryor and Gay Porn



U.S. Judge Bill Pryor
Deputies from the Shelby County, Alabama, sheriff's office have made at least four visits to our house this week in the wake of my reporting about photos of U.S. Judge Bill Pryor that appeared at a gay porn Web site in the 1990s.

On each occasion, at least two vehicles and two deputies came to our home and pounded on the door. At least two times, the second vehicle was a sports utility model that looks like it could be used for transporting prisoners. At least one time, three deputies appeared at our door step. (See video at the end of this post.)

What is going on? The only legitimate reason I can think for deputies to appear at my home would be if they were trying to serve court papers. According to press reports, Republican operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison has sued me for reporting about her extramarital affair with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

I have not been served with papers in that case, although a reader informs me that court files show a process server claims, falsely, that I was served on September 18. If the court file shows I've been served--even though I haven't--there is no reason for deputies to be trying to serve me. Furthermore, the Garrison complaint apparently was filed in Jefferson County court, so it seems unlikely that Shelby County deputies would be attempting service.

Finally, it's hard to see why 2-3 deputies and 2-3 vehicles would be needed to serve papers.

So what's really going on? I can only guess, but I'm thinking a corrupt deputy filed an affidavit and a corrupt Shelby County judge signed it, approving a search warrant for our home. My guess is that someone is alleging that the photograph I published of Bill Pryor constitutes child pornography, and law enforcement in Alabama is trying to set me up on an absurdly bogus charge. At the least, they probably are trying to scare my wife and me.

Never mind that multiple sources told me, and I reported more than once, that the photos of Pryor were taken when he was a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe). Never mind that the photo appeared with shots of at least 10 other young men in a gallery at an adult gay porn site called badpuppy.com. Never mind that Alabama law states that child pornography applies only to a subject who is under 17 years of age.

Bill Pryor doesn't look 16 in the photo, the other young men in the gallery clearly are not 16, and it's unlikely Bill Pryor was 16 when he entered college.

Do local officers plan to arrest me? I have no idea. But I know, for sure, they have no legitimate grounds to search our house, so that can only point to a campaign of intimidation or retaliation. It also might indicate they plan to confiscate my computer, which would be one way to shut down reporting on Legal Schnauzer.

Regardless of the plans, it all is unlawful--an example of real-life actions from jack-booted thugs. All of this, it seems clear, is driven by my audacity to report accurately about the ugly past of a sitting federal judge from Alabama.

Below is a brief video of one visit from officers. More extensive videos are in the works.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bill Upton, President Of Vulcan Steel Products in Pelham, Admits To Affair With Woman Who Called Him "Daddy"



Bill Upton, of Vulcan Steel Products
The president of an Alabama steel company had an extramarital affair with a young woman he and his wife had raised as their daughter, according to court records in Jefferson County.

William D. "Bill" Upton Jr. is president of Vulcan Steel Products, which is based in the Birmingham suburb of Pelham. Upton sued his wife, Linda S. Upton, for divorce in 2010 and received a stunningly favorable judgment, even though he admits in court papers to having an affair with a young woman who had called him "daddy" for years.

Bill Upton might not have technically committed incest, but his actions come close to meeting the description. When I contacted Upton yesterday and requested an interview, he said only that the Upton v. Upton case had been handled properly and quickly hung up.

Gincie Walker had grown up in an abusive home in Shelby County before settling into the Upton family when she was in her mid to late teens. Linda and Bill Upton have one biological son and had adopted or fostered a number of special-needs children over about a 20-year period. Court records state that Gincie Walker has multiple-personality disorder, and she was in her mid to late 20s when the affair with Bill Upton started; she now is in her early 30s.

The Uptons never officially adopted Walker, but they parented her throughout adolescence and well into early adulthood. Sources state that she was treated as, and seen as, the Uptons' daughter.

Court records describe Bill Upton as a multimllionaire, and the family home is in the exclusive Shook Hill Road section of Mountain Brook. In addition to his clout in the business community, Bill Upton also has ties to the conservative religious community. He once was a member of Briarwood Presbyterian Church and was active in the Pro-Life movement.

A review of public records indicate that Bill Upton's admitted affair with Gincie Walker was the precipitating event that broke up the Upton marriage. But Bill Upton initiated the divorce case, and despite flagrant marital misconduct. he received a largely favorable judgment in a Jefferson County domestic-relations court that has been riddled for years with what has come to be known as "hunting club corruption."

How bad was the outcome for Linda Upton? She lost custody of all her children. She is being forced to sell the marital residence on Shook Hill Road. She's had to sell a vacation home. Most of the maintenance and insurance expenses for the homes landed on her. She received little in marital assets, almost nothing from land and business assets that she and her parents had helped build and manage.

We have reported on a number of Alabama divorce cases that produced outlandish results, usually with wives and children coming away the "losers," with wealthy, connected husbands walking away as "winners." 

That certainly was the case in Rollins v. Rollins, where Birmingham resident Sherry Carroll Rollins and her two daughters wound up on food stamps because of an unlawful judgment from Shelby County Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson. The husband in that case, Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins, comes from one of the wealthiest families in the country (the folks behind Orkin Pest Control) and owns multiple private jets. For good measure, his company has received some $800 million in Wall Street support. How much does Ted Rollins pay in child support for two children? It's $815 a  month, plus $500 in alimony.

It also was the case in Wyatt v. Wyatt, where Clanton resident Bonnie Cahalane wound up in jail for five months last year for failure to pay a property-related debt in a divorce case. Chilton County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds ordered Ms. Cahalane's imprisonment and also ordered the sale of her house--even though black-letter Alabama law forbids both actions. Harold Wyatt, who was the opposing party, is not particularly wealthy. But Bonnie Cahalane's previous husband is Bobby Knox, president of Shelby Concrete and one of the wealthier individuals in Chilton County. Did Bobby Knox help engineer a cheat job against his ex wife, out of spite, that caused her to land in jail--and to lose her home? Our reporting strongly suggests the answer is yes.

Upton v. Upton is disturbing on multiple levels. The case originally was assigned to Judge Dorothea Batiste, but attorneys from both sides agreed to have it heard by a private judge. Gary Pate, who was retired at the time from the Jefferson County bench, issued the  judgment in one of the first cases heard under the Alabama Private Judge Act, passed in 2012. Scott Vowell, then presiding judge in Jefferson County, signed off on moving the case to Pate--and Vowell later led the charge to file complaints against Batiste, resulting in her three-month suspension from the bench.

In another oddity, the case file was sealed, without Linda Upton's knowledge or consent. In fact, at one point, Upton v. Upton disappeared from public files altogether, with no record that it had even taken place. The case currently is on appeal before the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

I've described the facts and the outcome of Upton to several individuals who are familiar with Alabama divorce law. The response has been an across-the-board expression of disbelief.

We long have described Rollins v. Rollins as the most flagrant cheat job we've encountered in a civil court case. It looks like Upton v. Upton might turn that into a close race.


(To be continued)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Welcome To The New Look Of Legal Schnauzer

This is a time of transition for our little blogging venture. Just last week, we added a donate button at the top of the blog, where readers can provide financial support for our reporting efforts. We recently received an invitation to join an ad network for progressive blogs, and we plan to dive in headfirst. This all comes on the heels of our inclusion in Cisions's 2012 ranking of the "Top 50 Independent Law Blogs in North America."

A major part of our renovation is the adoption of an updated look for Legal Schnauzer. This is our first day to try it out, and we hope you like it. We've used the same blogging template from day one, so we were overdue for an upgrade.

I picked the original template, in part, because . . . well, this might sound stupid, but because it was not terribly attractive. The goal was to have the focus on reporting about serious matters of legal corruption, so I didn't really want a slick design. I wanted to be rather stark and plain.

The old template certainly fit that bill, but it long has outlived its usefulness. Aside from being drab, the old format was inflexible, making poor use of space and not allowing for important elements like advertising.

Our new format is cleaner and more inviting, without being showy. I'm still learning how to tool around in the new template, so I've been a bit slow today on tasks like moderation of comments. In fact, it's possible that I might need to disable comments temporarily while I get used to driving my sporty new template. (By the way, that would be a cool name for a sports car, "The Template.")

We ask for your patience in the next few days if comment moderation seems unusually slow--or if the comments go away altogether for a while. We don't plan for any interruption to last long.

It's heartening to know that we have a devoted group of readers who value aggressive reporting on the corruption that ails our democracy--in Alabama and many other states. Our goal is to make Legal Schnauzer an even more valuable part of your reading endeavors. 

As always, thanks for your support and for welcoming LS into your lives. We welcome your comments about the new look and other renovations at the blog.
  

Could Gay Pornography Photos From College Days Lead To Indictment For Federal Judge Bill Pryor?



A scandal about gay-porn photos of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor could lead to the judge's indictment if it is proven that he falsified background documents during is Congressional confirmation, a prominent legal blog reports.

South Florida Lawyers (SFL), which is an ABA Journal Top 100 law blog, makes that assessment in an article that was posted Monday. We broke the Pryor story last Tuesday here at Legal Schnauzer, and it has been picked up by an array of Web sites that focus on everything from law to politics to gay rights to style/culture. The story has brought national attention to badpuppy.com, the Cocoa, Florida-based Web site where the Pryor photos appeared in 1997.

Judge Pryor surely will be comforted to learn that he now is featured at Gay Porn Times, in a post titled "Antigay Federal Judge in a Nudie-Cutie Scandal?"

The judge's discomfort might take a different turn down the line. Drawing on an article from instinctmagazine.com ("Homophobic Federal Judge's Gay Porn Past Exposed?), SFL writes:


The Alabama Bureau of Investigations (ABI) is looking into images that appeared on then-popular gay porn site Badpuppy.com in the '90s. Reportedly working on a few tips, the ABI is concerned that the full-frontal images feature federal circuit Judge Bill Pryor. If the ABI confirms that the images are in fact those of the conservative Bush-appointee, there is a chance Pryor could be indicted for falsifying his background during his Congressional confirmation hearings. According to LegalSchnauzer, Congress commonly asks federal judicial appointees about "potentially embarrassing or compromising information in their backgrounds." Sources indicate that Pryor was aware the pics were public on the gay site (which was dubbed the "Wal Mart of gay porn") in 1997, a few years ahead of his appointment.

SFL apparently is written by one or more gay lawyers, and the Pryor photos are not breaking news to them:


Funny thing, aficionado of the male form that I am I remember seeing these pics when they first came out. They were featured quite prominently in Bad Puppy's promotions. Judge Pryor is denying that these are actual pictures of him and while they seem to be the same guy I wasn't there so I couldn't tell you for sure.

SFL touts itself as "a law blog done with jealousy, love, snark, humor and civility." That slightly campy approach is apparent in the introduction to the blog's Pryor story:


Here's a little story that peaked my interest over the weekend, and I do mean peaked. It's the story of a struggling, broke college student trying to deal with the high cost of tuition, books, and housing expenses by earning a little honest money on the side. What the heck is wrong with that? Nothing if you ask me. But this youthful indiscretion is raising eyebrows, not so much for the "act" but for who this young man grew up to be.

The young man, of course, grew up to be a federal judge, one with strongly anti-gay views. That's where the SFL post turns serious:


But what I find striking about this story is that the scandal over the Judge's morality is centered around his possible youthful modeling career and not the bigoted, hateful positions and actions that he's taken as an adult "member"of the judiciary. I couldn't care less who he showed his body to. What I care about is that he would deny people like me equal protection under the law.
That's immoral.
Everybody deserves to be treated equally; gays, lesbians, bisexuals, the transgendered and judges who exposed their private parts for fast cash! For not understanding that simple fact, Judge Pryor you are one bad, bad puppy.

What Is the Real Reason For Apparent Legal Action From Jessica Medeiros Garrison And Bill Baxley?


Bill Baxley
According to a report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR), Republican operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison has filed a lawsuit against me, claiming that my reports on her extramarital affair with Attorney General Luther Strange are false and defamatory. APR reports that Birmingham attorney Bill Baxley filed a complaint on Garrison's behalf, and I have reported here on two threatening letters I've received from Baxley.

I haven't seen the alleged complaint, and I haven't been served with a copy, so I don't know if APR has its facts straight or not. But I do know this: If Jessica Garrison has filed a lawsuit against me, with Bill Baxley's assistance, it probably has nothing to do with my reporting on the Luther Strange affair.

What's the real reason that Jessica Garrison is threatening and/or taking legal action against me? Here are three distinct possibilities:

(1) I have been investigating the curious circumstances under which she purchased a foreclosed property in Mountain Brook, which had been appraised at almost $440,000, and she wants to stop that;

(2) I have reported on, and I continue to investigate, her business relationship with a man named Erik Davis Harp, who was indicted in 2009 as a kingpin in an illegal sports-betting operation that had servers in Panama and generated $20 million a month. Leaders of the gambling ring reportedly had ties to the Gambino and Genovese crime families, and Garrison wants to stop my reporting on that;

(3) I have been investigating massive corruption in central Alabama courts, and my reporting at the moment focuses on a prominent judicial figure in Jefferson County. This married judicial figure reportedly has what might be called an "unconventional relationship" with an executive at an "old money" Birmingham investment firm, one that has operated in these parts for more than a century. I interviewed the investment executive on August 15 about his relationship with the judicial figure. Two days later, I received a threatening letter from Bill Baxley.

What does all of this mean? Well, let's focus first on what we know: We've already shown that I contacted Garrison via e-mail on July 12, requesting an interview about her relationship with Luther Strange. I gave Garrison five days to respond, and when she didn't, I proceeded to write my first post on the matter, dated July 17. From that date until August 13, I wrote six posts about the Luther Strange affair--and I never heard a word from Jessica Garrison.


Jessica Medeiros Garrison
What does that tell you about Ms. Garrison and her lawyer, Bill Baxley? It tells me that they know my reporting on the Luther Strange affair is true, and they didn't want to kick a hornet's nest by threatening a bogus lawsuit against me.

That strategy apparently changed on August 14, when I sent a second e-mail to Jessica Garrison, raising the issues noted in Nos. 1 and 2 above. Two days later, I heard from Ms. Garrison for the first time, via a threatening letter from Bill Baxley.

So, what do we have here? I wrote six posts about the Luther Strange affair, over a roughly one-month period of time, and never heard a peep from Jessica Garrison. I asked a few questions about her house transaction and her business ties to Erik Davis Harp and . . . presto, Bill Baxley is sending nasty missives to me, on Ms. Garrison's behalf.

What about item No. 3? Well, that is the most interesting possibility of all, the one to which I am paying the most attention. And get this: It doesn't involve Jessica Medeiros Garrison at all.

It does, however, involve Bill Baxley. Someone at the old-money investment firm noted earlier is very close to Mr. Baxley. And I have electronic documents suggesting that someone (or several someones) at the firm was extremely distressed about my interview with the executive. My electronic records show these individuals conducted extensive research on my major posts at the time, especially on reports about the Jessica Garrison/Luther Strange affair.

This all suggests that Bill Baxley is using Jessica Garrison as a "straw man" in an effort to stop my reporting on a corrupt Jefferson County judicial figure and an executive at a local investment firm. This further suggests that any lawsuit filed on Jessica Garrison's behalf probably has nothing to do with Ms. Garrison.

I will be sharing my electronic documents shortly. They suggest that Bill Baxley is conducting an elaborate legal hoax, apparently with Jessica Garrison's support and permission. It's the kind of scam that probably should get both of them disbarred.

We also soon will be learning much more about the investment executive and his close relationship with a major judicial figure in Jefferson County.


(To be continued)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

With Ties To Gay Pornography In His Background, Bill Pryor Thrives In South's Toxic Political Culture


An edited version
of Bill Pryor, from
badpuppy.com
A gay pornography scandal involving U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor likely is a byproduct of an Alabama political system that tends to reward candidates who tout "family values" on the stump while leading private lives marked by sexual impropriety.

That is the take of Andrew Kreig, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Justice Integrity Project. Kreig, a journalist with a law degree from the University of Chicago, is the author of Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney, and their Masters, which is being released in hardcover this month.


We broke the Pryor story one week ago here at Legal Schnauzer, and since then, it has been featured in a wide variety of press outlets--from those focusing on dishy legal news (Above the Law), to one connected to Fox News (Alan Colmes' Liberaland), to one focused on style and culture (NewNowNext).


I discussed the controversy yesterday on Justice With A Snap! a Miami-based radio show hosted by former Florida judge David Young. The first openly gay judge on TV, Young left the bench in 2007 to star in the Emmy-nominated Judge David Young program, a nationally syndicated court show. Like most of the others who have examined the gay-porn story, Young spent a lot of time on the two-faced nature of Pryor's actions.


Political hypocrisy, of course, is not limited to Alabama or even the South. But Kreig suggests our culture generates an overabundance of public figures who say one thing, but do something else. From Kreig's September 23 piece, titled "Famed Conservative Federal Judge Accused of Posing Nude as a Young Man."



Illicit sex, which is widespread among the powerful and their ambitious acolytes in Washington as elsewhere, appears to have been especially pervasive among Alabama leaders, who have typically kept up appearances by being married.
Those in both political parties were involved. But this column focuses upon those who especially touted their family values on their way to political victory, not upon the vanquished.
Why is this is relevant to politics and courts? Because the degree of hypocrisy and conniving required to sustain a promiscuous lifestyle at the same time as a virtuous public image is precisely the brazen skill-set that enables success in fund-raising, gerrymandering, voting machine rigging, and trumped-up criminal charges against political opponents.
Even those committed to Republican victories are sometimes repulsed by the methods and life-styles of major practitioners of the dark political arts. Yet these kinds of stories are extremely difficult to bring to public attention, important though they might be to the average voter operating on conventional wisdom.

How creepy can the sexual shenanigans get in the political underworld? Consider this tale from Kreig:



I am among the DC-based reporters who have been approached by a longtime conservative journalist who had researched the ascendancy of gays and bisexuals in the national party leadership -- and was frustrated because his major outlet, a well-known conservative newspaper, would not print it. Among the veteran reporter's findings, never published, that was the existence of a so-called "Hairy Bear Club" purportedly involving well-known conservatives who liked hairy men. Those involved were said to have given themselves a nickname with confidence that such secrets remain hidden forever from their base of family values voters.

Compared to that, the Bill Pryor gay-porn scandal seems almost quaint. But Kreig says it has serious implications, beyond the titillation factor. For one thing, Kreig says word of Pryor's ties to gay porn are not new:


The public risks blackmail or other undue pressure on officials who may be compromised by hidden scandals. Reports have circulated for years in elite Alabama legal circles that Pryor was compromised by "badpuppy.com" photos held by well-connected Republicans with interests before the courts. I received a copies of several such photos -- purportedly of Pryor -- more than two years ago from a reliable source.

Pryor has denied, both to me and in an official statement to Kreig, that the young man in the photo is him. The judge, however, has refused to grant interviews on the subject, and Kreig reaches this conclusion: "My opinion is that the photo is Pryor, more likely than not, despite his denial."



Kreig counters Pryor's claim that the gay-porn story originated with a "widely discredited blogger"--and that, of course, would be me. From Kreig's piece:


[Shuler's] columns allege serious legal, financial and other wrongdoing in Deep South courts. With the collapse of the traditional newspaper industry, his research is often the last hope of those who believe they cannot find justice in the courts. A typical recent column was headlined, Cases Of "Ken Nowlin And Penni Tingle In Mississippi Raise Red Flags About Criminal Defense Lawyers."
Many of his columns are republished on websites for more national audiences than his Legal Schnauzer site. The site is named after the couple's late pet, Murphy, a breed known for its digging prowess. . . .
Cision, a Chicago-based social media/marketing firm, compiled an annual ranking of "The Top 50 Independent Law Blogs in North America." It listed Legal Schnauzer at No. 37, with few of the others undertaken by a lone writer without corporate or non-profit group support.
Several of his recent investigative crusades have probed disgraceful financial and sexual by central figures in Alabama's power structure. These include many columns reporting that married officials were having affairs that indicated financial or other skulduggery hurting taxpayers.

Pryor, in labeling me a "widely discredited blogger," is both wildly inaccurate and arrogant. The term seems designed, in part, to heap disdain on the numerous victims of judicial abuse I've covered in these pages. Kreig picks up on that theme:


I am not in a position to retrace and affirm all of Shuler's reporting on these and hundreds of other blogs. But I have worked with him on a number of sensitive columns for more than four years in which our reporting overlapped on at least two dozen published columns, including those involving Siegelman, witnesses in that case, and Karl Rove. In my opinion, Roger Shuler is an exceptionally capable, courageous, and public-spirited reporter.
For many litigants in Alabama especially, he is one of their last hopes for justice if they encounter an overzealous or other unjust prosecutor or judge.

It's heartening to read such words from a journalism peer, of course, but Kreig goes "outside the lines" to show how the Pryor story fits into Alabama's dysfunctional legal/political environment. We have entered an age of one-party rule, and that helped set the stage for gross injustice, perhaps best represented in the political prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman. Kreig shows that conservatives, who have come to dominate in Alabama and other Southern states, are not two-faced just about sexual matters. It can extend to the courtroom, as Don Siegelman and his supporters discovered in the critical year of 2006:



At the Justice Department in Washington, the stage was being set for the era of "loyal Bushie" prosecutors who could retain their jobs by bringing politically oriented criminal prosecutions, we now know from reports about the scandal.
The real motivation for this was money, my research has indicated. Behind a veneer of rhetoric about good government, the goal is taxpayer-paid government contracts awarded on a political basis and business deals with foreign potentates. The well-connected could enjoy fabulous success. Token opposition leaders among Democrats could enjoy more modest prosperity so long as they muted criticism of the power structure.

Even with a black Democrat in the White House since January 2009, white Republicans have trampled basic constitutional rights in Alabama, Mississippi, and other deep red states:



President Obama has catered for the most part to the state's powerful Republican senators, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, by making timid presidential appointments. Among the most shameful was Obama's choice of George Beck . . . , defense attorney for Siegelman's main accuser Nick Bailey, to continue the Siegelman cover-up in effect as Canary's successor as U.S. Attorney.
Why? In my view, the president and his top team, including Attorney General Eric Holder, have many dirty, dark secrets of their own that are well-known to Republican power-brokers like Rove but almost entirely unknown to the general public. The leverage keeps national leaders in line -- or in "puppet" status as I describe it -- while the gravy train rolls ahead for insiders.

Such an environment helped produce Bill Pryor as a justice on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, even though he had no previous judicial experience. That, Kreig says, is one reason the gay-porn photos at badpuppy.com matter:


The controversy regarding Pryor and the photo is far more important than passing embarrassment to either the judge or the reporter, if proven wrong. Shuler purports to use this matter as a window into a sinister world of judges who lie in an unaccountable manner that ultimately hurts the general public.
In a largely independent manner, that's a similar conclusion I have reached in my new book, Presidential Puppetry, as have many others in Alabama and elsewhere horrified by corruption in the legal and political systems. The stakes are high enough so that I suggest learning the truth about the "badpuppy" photos is worth the effort.

In his official statement, Pryor pointed to an FBI background check as evidence that his personal history includes nothing unsavory. But Kreig has followed the Senate confirmation process closely and found investigative standards to be lax:



In view of that rubber-stamp process, I suggest that Pryor would have more credibility if he would release his confirmation records to clear the air on the quality of the FBI/Senate investigation. Shuler has already asked for these documents, and reports that the judge has refused to supply them. They are public for the most part anyway.
Beyond that, Pryor could always sue Shuler and let the public learn the truth via discovery and courtroom verdict. That assumes, of course, that legal procedures fairly result in truth and justice. But there's always hope.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Readers Pitch In To Support An Independent Voice Among The Top 50 Law Blogs In North America


Murphy Abigail Shuler, the schnauzer
who inspired a top 50 law blog
We have been heartened by response to the first fund-raising campaign in Legal Schnauzer history. For six-plus years, this blog has been a "no profit" enterprise, with no ads, no donate button, no form of external support. That changed last Thursday when we installed a donate button in the upper left-hand corner of the blog, and we are pleased to report that a number of readers have been most generous in their support.

Why does this matter? A look at a 2012 ranking of "The Top 50 Independent Law Blogs in North America" provides perspective. And it suggests Legal Schnauzer might be the only blog of its kind in the Unites States and Canada. To be sure, the number of like blogs is extremely small.

Cision, a Chicago-based social media/marketing firm, compiled the ranking, and we were pleased to discover that Legal Schnauzer came in at No. 37. Actually, we were more than pleased; we were stunned, almost speechless--and regular readers know that is an unusual state for us.

How many law blogs are there in North America? We don't know, but our research indicates they number well into the hundreds of thousands; wouldn't be surprised if it tops a million. To think that a one-man operation like Legal Schnauzer could break through all of that clutter to reach the top 50 . . . well, I'm still dumbfounded--especially when you consider I did nothing to push for inclusion in the Cision survey, and I didn't even know it was taking place.

Perhaps the most curious element of the Cision rankings is its use of the word "independent" to describe the blogs on the list. I've read everything I can find about Cision and its surveys, but I still don't know what they mean by "independent law blogs." My best guess is that it refers to legal blogs that are not attached to any form of mainstream media, such as a newspaper, magazine, or broadcast outlet.

I've researched each blog in the top 50 and discovered many of them are not as "independent" as it might appear--certainly not when compared to the kind of independence we have here at Legal Schnauzer. In fact, it appears that LS is one of only two blogs on the list that could be called truly independent.

Do most of the blogs on the Cision list receive some sort of institutional support? The answer is a yes, and here is a breakdown:

* Of the 50 blogs, 47 are written by lawyers; those lawyers are connected to law firms of various sizes;

* Of the 50 blogs, 27 are group blogging efforts, including more than one author. Some have a dozen or more writers;

* Of the 50 blogs, 13 are connected to law schools;

* Three of the blogs are tied to a major publishing house, American Lawyer Media.

* One of the blogs, LSAT Blog: Ace the LSAT, appears tied to a business enterprise, with ties to the legal and publishing fields.

Legal Schnauzer is the only blog on the list that is based in Alabama, and only four others are in the Southeast--three in Florida and one in Atlanta.

The only other truly independent blog on the list appears to be Grits for Breakfast, which focuses on the Texas criminal justice system and came in at No. 3. It is the work of Scott Henson, who describes himself as "a a former journalist turned opposition researcher/political consultant, public policy researcher and blogger."

Henson has been an associate editor at Texas Observer and has worked for the ACLU, the Sunshine Project for Police Accountability, and the Innocence Project of Texas. He has an impressive background, and if I am alone in his company on the Cision list . . . well, that seems like a pretty good place to be.

This much is clear: Independent voices in the legal blogosphere are rare. We are fortunate here at Legal Schnauzer to have readers who recognize the value in what we do. Whether their support is financial, moral, emotional, informational, or otherwise, it all is greatly appreciated.

For the record, it's probably safe to say that we are the only law blog that draws inspiration from the memory of a beloved pet. Our work is dedicated to Murphy Abigail Shuler (1993-2004), the miniature schnauzer who helped us survive some of the darkest days of our personal legal nightmare. Since starting this blog, I've heard from an extraordinary number of similar victims; they come from all corners of the United States.

That reminds me of Hillary Clinton, who is famed for saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." I've come to learn that it also takes a village to shine a spotlight on a broken justice system.

Legal Schnauzer might be a one-man operation, but it's never been a one-man effort. Those who have pitched in to help have our deepest gratitude.

As Reports Mount About His '90s Ties To Gay Porn, Judge Bill Pryor Rides The Luther Strange Love Train


Bill Pryor, in a "family
friendly" version of his
badpuppy.com photo.
The number of news accounts is steadily growing about photographs of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor that appeared at a gay porn Web site called badpuppy.com in the 1990s. Perhaps the story has not "gone viral" yet, but given Pryor's staunchly anti-gay views and the flagrant hypocrisy the photos represent, members of the gay press are starting to latch onto the tale with glee. (See here, here, and here.) The style site NewNowNext.com picked up on the story yesterday.

Based on inquiries I'm receiving from major news outlets, the story might go viral on the Web at any moment. Pryor once was considered a conservative boy wonder, whose boyish looks and right-wing credentials made him a possibility for future appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Pryor might be watching that dream, and maybe quite a few others, slowly swirl down the drain.

(Perhaps the most fair and thorough report I've seen on the story so far comes from the "U.S. Eleventh Circuit Blog" at findlaw.com. Written by William Peacock, Esq., the piece is titled, "Accusations of Bias in 11th Circuit Judge: Pryor's Nude Photo Scandal." I recommend it as a solid overview and analysis of the evolving story.)

How has Pryor responded to all of this? In a dumbfoundingly ignorant way, by apparently aligning himself with three Alabama lawyers who have dubious records on mattes of ethics. Who forms this unholy alliance? We are talking about Birmingham-based lawyer Bill Baxley, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, and Strange's mistress/former campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison.

What signs point to Pryor joining hands with Baxley, Strange, and Garrison? Well, let's consider Pryor's response late last week when D.C.-based lawyer/journalist Andrew Kreig contacted the judge for comment about the gay porn story. Our understanding is that Kreig plans to use Pryor's response in an upcoming article at the Justice-Integrity Project.

Did Pryor grant Kreig an interview? No, he brushed off that possibility, just as he did when I submitted multiple interview requests before writing the post that broke the gay porn story. Did Pryor respond directly to Kreig with a comment. No, the judge assigned that task to Jennifer Bandy, one of his former law clerks who now works for the Washington, D.C., law firm of Kirkland & Ellis.

What does Jennifer Bandy know about this story? Probably nothing. Why on earth did Bill Pryor choose her to issue a "statement" to Andrew Kreig? I haven't a clue. Did the words come from Bandy or Pryor? We don't know.

Anyway, here is Bill Pryor's "official statement" on the matter, per Andrew Kreig:


"Over the last week, 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."

That paragraph raises all sorts of issues, but let's focus on just one for now. Notice that Pryor calls me a "widely discredited blogger." That raises this obvious question: "Discredited by whom?"

It certainly isn't Harper's legal analyst and Columbia University law professor Scott Horton, who has referenced my work. It isn't Kreig himself, a University of Chicago law school graduate who has referenced my posts on scores of occasions. It isn't Alan Colmes, the long-time Fox News political commentator who picked up on my coverage of the Pryor story last week. It isn't David Lat, a Harvard and Yale law grad whose widely read Web site, Above the Law, also picked up on my Pryor coverage last week. It isn't members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, who saw my work cited in a 2007 hearing on political prosecutions of the George W. Bush administration.

If some of the best known and most respected legal and political analysts in the country have not discredited me--and neither have members of Congress--to whom is Bill Pryor referring? It seems clear that Pryor is referring to the individuals behind an alleged lawsuit that Bill Baxley filed on behalf of Jessica Garrison, claiming defamation because of my reporting about the Garrison/Luther Strange extramarital affair.


Jennifer Bandy
I say "alleged lawsuit" because I haven't been served with it, and I haven't seen it. A man who apparently was working as Bill Baxley's process server pounded on our door for an extended period one evening last week, making a point to traipse all over our front yard and around our driveway into the backyard. Mrs. Schnauzer was home by herself, it was dark, and she was not about to answer the door for this strange, thuggish-looking character, but she did watch his actions closely. (Keep in mind, I have received a number of death threats since starting Legal Schnauzer, so we are not prone to opening the door for strangers.)

As I was coming home and about to pull our car into the driveway, my wife saw the man run down our driveway and throw something toward our closing garage door. The man then drove off, without ever saying a word to either of us, without even confirming who lived there or who was home at the time--and we haven't found whatever it was he appeared to throw in our driveway.

Aside from drama over Bill Baxley's failed attempts to serve me, what do we learn from Bill Pryor's official statement to Andrew Kreig?

It tells me that he has jumped in bed with Bill Baxley, Luther Strange, and Jessica Garrison, who are the only people who've made any serious effort to discredit me--even though they can't even get me lawfully served.

What kind of company is Bill Pryor keeping? I addressed that when Andrew Kreig asked if I had any response to the Pryor statement. Here is a portion of my reply on Saturday morning, after Kreig and I had communicated about the Pryor statement last Friday night:


Andrew:
Just a thought on Pryor's statement about me being a "widely discredited blogger." It didn't occur to me last night, but I feel certain that is a reference to the apparent lawsuit that Alabama lawyer Bill Baxley has filed against me . . . over my reporting on the extramarital affair involving Attorney General Luther Strange and his former campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison. I say "apparent lawsuit" because I haven't been served with it and haven't seen it, but I hear it's out there.
The point, though, is that it seems Pryor now has joined an unsavory alliance that has formed in an effort to attack me for reporting accurately about judicial/legal sleaze in Alabama and beyond. This alliance includes a judge who engaged in gay porn (Pryor); a former politician who is a notorious drunk and was caught having an affair with an AP reporter and is known for all sorts of colorful deeds in Las Vegas (Baxley); plus two people who have engaged in financial, professional, and extramarital hanky panky (Strange and Garrison).

I then provided Kreig with some context about what's really going on with Bill Baxley's alliance from hell:


As you report on this, you might want to keep in mind that Jessica Garrison used to work for Pryor (and his No. 1 supporter, Jeff Sessions), and she has called Pryor her mentor. . . . When Garrison couldn't take a job with Big Luther in AG's office because of her divorce/custody case, she landed at the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which Pryor started. How does Garrison live in Birmingham and work at D.C.-based RAGA? (BTW, property records show Garrison bought a $440,000 house in Mountain Brook, Alabama's most prestigious suburb, for $30,000. How did she pull that off? I will be reporting on that soon.)
I know the apparent lawsuit isn't about my coverage of the Strange/Garrison affair, because all parties involved know that is true. But I've been working on 2-3 stories that the lawsuit is designed to shut down. One involves Jessica Garrison's funky real estate deal. Another involves her business ties to a guy name Erik Davis Harp, who was indicted in an offshore illegal gambling ring (Panama) that has ties to Gambino and Genovese crime families. Another involves a major Alabama judicial figure who has issues similar to those involving Pryor.

We have much more coming on this story, but let's consider this for a moment: Many Americans probably assume that men and women who wind up on the federal bench get there because of keen intellects and sharp observational powers.

By aligning himself with Bill Baxley's "Coalition of the Corrupt," Bill Pryor has proven that he's got the intellectual skills and moral acuity of a dead stump. Of course, Pryor was nominated by George W. Bush, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Alan Colmes And His Liberaland Web Site Pick Up On Reports About Gay-Porn Photos Of Judge Bill Pryor


Alan Colmes
One of the nation's best-known liberal commentators is reporting today on our reports about photos of U.S. Circuit Bill Pryor that appeared in the 1990s at a gay porn Web site.

Alan Colmes' Liberland addresses the issue in a post titled "Circuit Court Justice's Gay Porn Site Photo Comes Out Of The Closet."

Colmes perhaps is best known for his 13-year run as co-host of Hannity & Colmes, a nightly political debate show on Fox News Channel. He currently is the host of The Alan Colmes Show, a nationally syndicated talk-radio show distributed by Fox News Radio. Colmes is the author of two books, Red, White & Liberal: How Left Is Right and Right Is Wrong (2003) and Thank the Liberals For Saving America (2012).

Liberland serves as Colmes blogging base, and the site zeroes in squarely on Bill Pryor. Here is how the post begins:

Earlier this week, provocative Alabama law blogger Roger Shuler posted an interesting tidbit about solidly conservative US Court of Appeals 11th Circuit Justice William Pryor.

The post then quotes from our reports, noting that the photos appeared in 1997 at the Cocoa, Florida-based Web site badpuppy.com and Pryor has a staunchly conservative public record, including opposition to gay rights. More from Liberland:

And, to quote the great George Takei, “Oh, my!” Above the Law, arguably the most popular (and dishy) legal blog in the nation, has picked up the story . . .

Bill Pryor at badpuppy.com
Liberaland then pulls this nugget from the Above the Law (ATL) report:

If true, this would not be the first time that a respected jurist has inadvertently revealed what lies underneath their robes. Judge Wade McCree of Michigan bared it all when one of his sext messages was leaked to the public. Madam Justice A. Lori Douglas blushed red as a Canadian maple leaf when nude photographs of Her Honor engaging in bondage acts surfaced online.
On the other hand, if the gossip that is making the rounds is true, it would likely be the first time that a federal judge seated on one of the United States circuit courts has been caught with his pants around his ankles — or in this case, with no pants at all . . . 
The judge implicated in this affair is William Holcombe Pryor Jr. of the Eleventh Circuit, who also serves on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Though we have no way to confirm if the accusations are true, we can’t help but notice a possible resemblance between Judge Pryor and the attractive young man in the pictures (meaning that Judge Pryor is quite the judicial superhottie).

Both Liberaland and Above the Law now have reported on the historic nature of our investigative work. Has a federal judge ever been caught with--as ATL puts it--"no pants at all"? Has any national political figure ever been so directly exposed as a blatant hypocrite? 

The answer to the first question clearly is no. On the second one, it's hard to think of any politico who comes off as more of a phony than Pryor.

The story, by the way, is far from over. As Liberaland shows, it's just warming up. We have much more coming on the Pryor story here at Legal Schnauzer.