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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Liberty Duke Paid A Heavy Price In Quickie Divorce That Was Filed In Talladega County



Liberty Duke
Alabama lobbyist Liberty Duke lost her interest in the marital home, waived all right to alimony, and agreed to pay all credit-card debts in her 2006 divorce, court documents show.

Duke and Rob Riley are suing my wife, this blog, and me, claiming that my reporting on certain topics is false and defamatory. But court filings suggest that Liberty Duke's misconduct, of some sort, precipitated her divorce and put her in a weak bargaining position.

William Joseph Duke initiated the divorce on February 27, 2006, and the case was over in roughly five weeks--even though the couple was married 14 years, had two children, and owned a home. The husband filed the case in Talladega County, even though the couple lived in Chilton County. Talladega is known as an Alabama jurisdiction where divorces can be obtained quickly, and court filings are likely to be kept away from prying eyes in the home county.

A divorce agreement the couple reached illustrates the weak position in which Liberty Duke found herself. (See the full document at the end of this post.) Consider what happened with the Dukes' house, from the agreement:


2. Property
2.1 Real Estate
2.1.1--The parties jointly own real estate located at 1155 County Road 368, Verbena, AL 36091 (the House.) The Wife will convey to the Husband all of her right, title, and interest in the House by quitclaim deed. The Husband will have all rights to escrow account. Until August 31, 2006, the Wife will reside in the House and pay all expenses related to the House, including without limitation the mortgage. On or before such date, the Wife will vacate the House. After the Wife vacates, the Wife's obligation to pay the expenses of the House will stop.

We don't know how much the Dukes had invested in the house, but Liberty Duke gave up her share.

Did she make it up on alimony? Not exactly:


4. Alimony
Both the Husband and the Wife waive any and all right to receive periodic alimony, past, present, and future.

On top of that, Liberty Duke got stuck with a major chunk of the household debt:


3. Marital Obligations
3.1.1--The Wife will be responsible for all credit card debts of the marriage and will hold the Husband harmless from any liability arising from indebtedness related to the said accounts.

As for the children, the couple agreed to share joint legal and physical custody, with the kids' primary residence being with Liberty Duke. William Duke agreed to pay $703 a month in child support, but the overall  document gives the impression he could have gotten away without paying anything. One assumes, and hopes, that he cares enough for his kids to not go that route--no matter what issues he might have with their mother.

Court papers from Talladega County in 2006 indicate Liberty Duke sure did something that ticked off her ex husband--and she paid for it dearly.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Riley and Garrison Lawsuits Against Legal Schnauzer Feature Fraudulent Conduct Right Out Of The Gate


Jessica Medeiros Garrison
Two prominent Alabama Republicans--Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison--have filed lawsuits against me in recent weeks, claiming my reporting on certain subjects is false and defamatory. I know--and I suspect Riley, Garrison, and their respective lawyers know--that the lawsuits are baseless and designed merely for purposes of harassment and intimidation.

Aside from the lawsuits' merits (or lack thereof), we see an alarming trend involving the plaintiffs. They and their associates can't even get the complaints served without engaging in fraudulent conduct. And I don't use the "f word" casually here. The cases hardly are off the ground, and court documents show that individuals acting on the plaintiffs' behalf have engaged in fraud on the court.

We already have reported on the improper service that has been attempted in both cases--via a thuggish private process server in the Garrison case; via a Shelby County deputy and his unconstitutional traffic stop in the Riley matter. I filed documents in both cases late last week, seeking to have service quashed.

(See Motions to Quash at the end of this post. The version of the Riley document seen here is not official. It does not include a time stamp because the Shelby County civil clerk's office was closed on Wednesday, when we filed it. We were instructed to place it with the criminal clerk's office, with assurances it would be properly time stamped.)

Some might view service-related matters as mere technicalities. But that is not how the law views them. It is not uncommon for a lawsuit to be dismissed in its entirety due to improper service of process. And if evidence shows that Riley and Garrison knowingly engaged in, or approved of, fraudulent conduct in the service of process, their lawsuits will deserve that fate.

Why is service so important? The same concepts generally apply in both state and U.S. courts, and they are well stated in a 2011 federal case styled Dunagan v. ABBC Inc., in the Southern District of Alabama:


This court lacks jurisdiction to enter judgment against a party that has not properly been served with process. See, e.g., Hemispherx Biopharma, Inc. v. Johannesburg Consol. Investments, 553 F.3d 1351, 1360 (11th Cir. 2008) (“Service of process is a jurisdictional requirement: a court lacks jurisdiction over the person of a defendant when that defendant has not been served.”) (citation omitted); In re Worldwide Web Systems, Inc., 328 F.3d 1291, 1299 (11th Cir. 2003) (“Generally, where service of process is insufficient, the court has no power to render judgment and the judgment is void.”).

Translation: A court has no authority over a defendant who has not been lawfully served. Can a plaintiff get around that little problem if a defendant clearly knows about the action? Nope, and that is clear from an Alabama divorce case styled Cain v. Cain, 892 So. 2d 952 (Ala. Civ. App., 2004):


Judging by the language of the trial court's August 2002 order denying of the former husband's motion to dismiss, which was entered after the alias summons and petition had purportedly been served, the trial court apparently concluded that the former husband's acknowledgment that he had actually received the trial court's order to appear, as evidenced by the former husband's July 2002 letter, was sufficient for it to also conclude that proper service of the summons and petition had been perfected. However actual knowledge of an action “does not confer personal jurisdiction without compliance with Rule 4.” Gaudin v. Collateral Agency, Inc., 624 So.2d 631, 632 (Ala.Civ.App.1993).

The Cain case goes on to make a key point: It's up to the plaintiff to ensure that proper service is completed; that burden does not fall on me or any other defendant:


When the service of process on the defendant is contested as being improper or invalid, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove that service of process was performed correctly and legally.

My Motions to Quash timely challenge service in the Riley and Garrison lawsuits. Now, it is up to plaintiffs to prove "process was performed correctly and legally." They can't possibly do that because it's a matter of fact that process was not legally performed.


Rob Riley
Even worse, documents in both cases indicate that the individuals who purported to complete process have made false or incomplete statements under oath to the court. Could that constitute perjury that would merit stiff sanctions against those who made the statements--and those who put them up to it?

If the rule of law still means anything in Alabama, the answer should be yes. In the "reality bites" world of Alabama courtrooms, who knows what will happen?

The fundamental question is this: Do Alabama judges have the cojones to hold GOP power brokers Rob Riley and Jessica Garrison accountable for their bogus attempts to serve process on me (and my wife, in the Riley case)?

We will be on hand to make sure you learn the answers.

(A footnote: We are making progress in identifying the process server who claims he "personally served" me by throwing documents down our driveway, toward the garage, while making no contact with anyone living at our house. The service return includes an illegible signature, but the address is 2012 Magnolia Ave., Birmingham, AL, with a phone of (205) 930-9333. That apparently is home to a company called Investigations Inc., which has a Web site at investigationpro.com.  The site's "About Us" page tells us the company is owned by one Charles Hopkins (hopkins@investigationpro.com). Hopkins, or someone who works for him, is anything but a pro; "fraud" would be a more fitting term. More importantly, whoever filed a document stating he personally served me committed a fraud on the court.)


(To be continued)






Jessica Medeiros Garrison's Connections To Bill Pryor Shine Spotlight On Her Hypocrisy About Tobacco



When someone says "Republican," what is the first word that pops in your mind. For me, it's "hypocrite," and I suspect that comes high on your list of words to associate with the GOP.

This comes to mind after recently reviewing a document in a divorce/custody case involving Republican operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison and Tuscaloosa school board president Lee Garrison.

Jessica Garrison complains in the document that her ex husband and his current wife are cigarette smokers, causing allergy problems during visitations for the son she has via Lee Garrison. This might be a legitimate concern in a custody case, and as a non-smoker myself, I'm not a big fan of any human (child or otherwise) being forced to inhale second-hand smoke. But coming from Jessica Garrison, it induces guffaws.

That's because it's well documented that Ms. Garrison is philosophical "best buds" with current U.S. Circuit Judge and former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor. In fact, she stated in an interview earlier this year that Pryor is her professional mentor--even though he might accurately be described as one of the most notorious tobacco-industry whores in American history.

(We probably can safely assume that Jessica Garrison also has adopted her mentor's strident anti-gay stance. Given what we've learned in recent weeks about Bill Pryor's ties to 1990s gay porn . . . well, that makes mentor and mentee hypocrites of Bunyanesque proportions.)

Is Jessica Garrison even aware how absurd it is for her to claim Bill Pryor as a mentor while decrying the effects of cigarette smoke? I doubt it, so we will spell it out.

First, let's consider that statement from the divorce/custody document. (See full document at the end of this post.) It was part of a general attack on her ex husband that Jessica Garrison used in effort to maintain primary custody of their son. Here is the key part:


The father has repeatedly exhibited a willingness to forfeit time with his son to pursue recreational and social activities that often involve excessive drinking and late nights. He also admittedly has had a gambling problem and takes controlled medications for which he has no prescription or medical need. The father also has a bad temper and a consistent tendency to rage, often in the presence of the child. Moreover, the father and his wife are cigarette smokers and have pets, both of which contribute to the child's ongoing allergies.

Who can Jessica Garrison thank for smoking's pervasive presence in American culture, especially in Alabama? Well, in part, the thanks should go to her mentor, Bill Pryor.

First, we must apologize to whores everywhere for comparing them to Bill Pryor and tobacco. That's a true insult to all self-respecting prostitutes, who actually fill a need in society--unlike Bill Pryor and the cigarette industry.

This all dates to 1997, when Mike Moore, a progressive attorney general in Mississippi, launched litigation to force the tobacco industry to help pay for health-care costs associated with smoking. Billions of dollars were at stake, and the lawsuits would have major implications for the political prosecutions of Don Siegelman in Alabama and Paul Minor in Mississippi. We covered that in an October 2007 post titled "Siegelman, Minor, and Tobacco."


Bill Pryor, Jessica Garrison
and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions
To most rational human beings, the litigation probably sounded imminently reasonable--the tobacco industry largely caused the problem, so it should help pay for it. But Bill Pryor would have none of it. As Alabama's attorney general, he opposed the state's participation in the lawsuits. Here is how an article in the Mobile Press-Register put it:


In 1997, after Mississippi and other states led the legal charge against the tobacco companies by filing lawsuits seeking compensation for treating tobacco-related illnesses, Alabama's refusal to join its neighbor to the west ignited a political firestorm.
Then-governor Fob James sided with Attorney General Bill Pryor, who adamantly opposed suing the industry, calling it bad law motivated by greedy trial lawyers. Siegelman did battle with James and Pryor in the media, condemning them for not joining the growing number of states suing the industry and accusing Pryor of being too close to the tobacco industry.
When it became clear that Alabama would not hop on board, Siegelman, though acting in his capacity as a private attorney, met with leaders at USA and the University of Alabama-Birmingham to urge them to sue cigarette makers. The argument was that the hospitals operated by both universities spent millions of dollars treating tobacco-related illnesses.
USA hopped aboard. UAB did too, before bowing out at Pryor's urging.

The Mobile paper did not get that last part quite right. Administrators on the UAB campus in Birmingham wanted to join the lawsuit. But Pryor persuaded members of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, based in Tuscaloosa, to vote against it. On a 10-2 vote, the UA Trustees stayed out of the lawsuit. That meant the University of South Alabama received about $20 million over 10 years, while UAB got nothing.

An Associated Press article from the time provides insight on some of the "reasoning" behind UA's no vote.

The bottom line? Bill Pryor went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Birmingham's largest health-care provider missed out on roughly $20 million to which it was lawfully entitled. And it was all so Pryor could protect his benefactors in the tobacco industry.

Jessica Garrison clearly enjoys reaping the benefits of her association with Bill Pryor. She now works for the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which Pryor started.

So here is some Legal Schnauzer advice for you, Jessica: If you want to continue riding the Pryor gravy train, please keep your trap shut about the dangers of smoking. It makes you look like an outsized hypocrite, even among Republicans.





Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How Did Jessica M. Garrison Pay A Modest $30,000 For A Mountain Brook House Valued At $400,000?


Jessica Garrison's house
in Mountain Brook.
The former campaign manager for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange knew she was going to be living at a foreclosed house in Mountain Brook before the property was sold, public documents show. Records also show the house sold for $30,000, even though it is appraised at more than $400,000.

Jessica Medeiros Garrison, who has engaged in a long-running extramarital affair with Strange, lives at 119 Main Street, in the Crestline section of Birmingham's most exclusive suburb. The house has 2,213 square feet and has an appraised value of  $439,900, in part because it is zoned for the most prestigious school district in Alabama.

Property records show the sale of the house was completed "by public outcry" on the steps of the Jefferson County Courthouse in July 2012. But a document from Garrison's divorce/child custody case, dated May 23, 2012, shows that Garrison already had an address of 119 Main Street, Mountain Brook, Alabama. (See property and court documents at the end of this post.) Andther document from custody case shows Garrison had made arrangements to live in Crestline as early as 2011.

How did Garrison have the Mountain Brook address in May 2012, when the house was not sold until July 2012? We tried to ask Garrison that question, and others related to the real-estate transaction, but our query was met two days later with a letter from attorney Bill Baxley, threatening a defamation lawsuit.

That leaves the impression that the home purchase is a mighty sensitive subject, for some reason. We know that Garrison's ability to move into that particular home was crucial in the custody case that grew out of her divorce from Lee Garrison, the recently elected chair of the Tuscaloosa City School Board.

Jessica Garrison initially had taken a job on Luther Strange's staff and was going to move with her son, Michael, to Montgomery. But when Lee Garrison challenged the move in court, Jessica Garrison gave up her job with the AG's office and began work with the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), while also serving in an "of counsel" role with the Birmingham law firm Balch and Bingham.

Under the Alabama Relocation Act, the custodial parent does not need consent of the non-custodial parent if a move is within 60 miles of the non-custodial residence. According to court records, the home on Main Street is less than 60 miles, barely, from Lee Garrison's home in Tuscaloosa--and that allowed Jessica Garrison to maintain primary custody.

Property records show that Robert C. and Hilary J. Maxwell were the previous owners of the Crestline house, and they bought it on June 27, 2007. Default was made on the indebtedness, and a foreclosure sale was held on July 20, 2012, with Jessica Garrison declared the highest bidder in the amount of $30,000.

Why was Jessica Garrison bidding on the Crestline house in July--a house that supposedly was open to bids from other citizens--when she knew in May that her address was set at the Crestline residence? More importantly, how did Garrison pay $30,000 for a house that is appraised at more than 10 times that sum?

Again, we tried to pose such questions to Jessica Garrison, but we were met with a threatening letter from her attorney. There might be reasonable answers to these questions, but we can't figure out what they are--and neither can a knowledgeable real-estate source we consulted on the matter.

For the record, here is the exact language in the Mortgage Foreclosure Deed, dated July 20, 2012:


WHEREAS, Burt W. Newsome was the Auctioneer who conducted said foreclosure sale for the said Renasant Bank, and
WHEREAS, Jessica Medeiros Garrison was the highest bidder in the amount of Thirty Thousand and 00/100 Dollars ($30,000), which sum of money Renasant Bank offered to apply to the costs of foreclosure and then to the remaining balance on the indebtedness secured by said mortgage, and said property was thereupon sold to Jessica Medeiros Garrison.
NOW, THEREFORE IN CONSIDERATION OF THE PREMISES, and the amount of Thirty Thousand and 00/100 Dollars ($30,000) the said Robert C. Maxwell and Hilary J. Maxwell and Renasant Bank by and through Burt W. Newsome, the person acting as auctioneer and conducting said sale as their duly authorized agent and Attorney-in-Fact and Auctioneer does hereby GRANT, BARGAIN, SELL AND CONVEY unto the said Jessica Medeiros Garrison AS IS, WHERE IS, the following described property in Jefferson County, Alabama . . .

How do you apparently buy a house in the Crestline section of Mountain Brook for only $30,000? A lot of people in Alabama would like to be in on that secret.

We will continue to research this matter, and perhaps we will come up with an explanation that makes sense. But then we still have this question: How did Jessica Garrison know her new address in May 2012 (maybe even summer of 2011) when the property was not sold at public auction, subject to open bidding, until July 2012?








Rob Riley Is Writing Court Orders To Benefit Himself In Lawsuit Designed To Stifle Reporting



Judge Claud D. Neilson
Public documents indicate Alabama Republican Rob Riley is preparing court orders that wind up with a judge's signature and then are issued as if they originated with the court. In fact, Riley's law office apparently has prepared all of the key orders that have been rendered so far in his defamation lawsuit that seeks to shut down my reporting on certain topics.

Jay Murrill, an attorney at Riley's law firm who is representing his boss in the case, appears to have written an order to grant a preliminary injunction and seal the public file, plus an order to hold us in contempt. If granted, the contempt order could subject us to incarceration.

How disturbing is this scenario? Rob Riley, the son of former two-term governor Bob Riley, seems to be serving as a party, legal researcher, court clerk, and de facto judge in a Shelby County Circuit Court case styled Robert R. Riley Jr. and Liberty Duke v. Roger Shuler, Carol T. Shuler and Legal Schnauzer, Civil Action No. 2013--236 and 237.

Do Rob Riley's ties to his father and related GOP heavyweights--not to mention national figures such as Karl Rove and Jack Abramoff--give him the clout to take over a court case and run it for his own benefit? That's exactly what appears to be happening.

No wonder Riley moved for the court file to be sealed, meaning public documents are not available to the public. In fact, this case is more than sealed; it has gone totally underground. When you check electronic files at AlaCourt.com and do a "party search" for my name, the Riley lawsuit does not show up.

In my experience, sealed cases generally show up on a basic docket search. Documents from the case might not be available to the public, and that seems to be standard procedure in a case that has been sealed--the divorce case involving GOP politico Jessica Medeiros Garrison and Tuscaloosa School Board president Lee Garrison is an example. (The Garrison case almost certainly was sealed to ensure that details about Jessica Garrison's affair with Attorney General Luther Strange would not leak to the public.)

Rob Riley apparently has taken sealing one step further, ensuring that a search of public records makes it appear the lawsuit doesn't exist. Mrs. Schnauzer and I only know about the documents because we are parties. And it seems likely that even we have not been provided with copies of all documents in the case.

Why is Rob Riley determined to shroud his lawsuit in secrecy? We can think of a whole bunch of possible reasons. But for now, we will focus on only one, and here it is: Records show the Riley Jackson law firm is writing orders, conducting research--pretty much running the show to benefit partner Rob Riley--and the firm is trying to hide such flagrant corruption from the public.

We have little doubt that retired Marengo County Circuit Judge Claud D. Neilson, appointed by the Alabama Supreme Court to hear the Riley lawsuit, is capable of acting in a corrupt fashion. (Neilson wouldn't be an Alabama judge if that weren't the case.) But for now, we aren't sure Neilson has done anything with the Riley case, one way or another.

Washington,D.C.-based investigative journalist Wayne Madsen noted last week Neilson's leading role in the ugly 2009 case of Herman Thomas. The former Mobile County judge faced multiple counts of sexual abuse, sodomy, and assault, but when a jury could not reach an overall verdict, Neilson stepped in and acquitted his judicial colleague.

We will take a closer look at the Herman Thomas case in an upcoming post. But at the moment, it seems Neilson has done little in the Riley case other than sign his name to documents that Rob Riley's minions prepared. And those signatures might have been stamped by someone else. Has Neilson reviewed relevant law and actually prepared orders? It doesn't look like it. Rob Riley and his lawyers appear to be doing that.

Let's consider an order that purports to hold us in contempt for failing to appear at a hearing last Thursday (October 17) on Riley's preliminary injunction. We showed in yesterday's post that Murrill entered a proposed order, with blank spaces left for someone (supposedly Neilson) to fill in the date/time and sign his name. The order was issued exactly as Murrill wrote it, with "Thursday, October 17th, 2013 at 1:15 p.m." entered by hand for the hearing and "7th day of October, 2013" entered as date of the order. (See the final order at the end of this post.)

Here is where the plot thickens. The order is signed by "Claud D. Neilson, retired circuit judge, assigned by the Alabama Supreme Court." But is that Neilson's handwriting or did someone else fill in the blanks? We have no way of knowing. But we do know that Neilson is based in Demopolis, quite a way from Shelby County, so it might be expeditious for someone to forge the judge's signature.

Aside from the signature, here is perhaps the most disturbing part: If Riley's lawyers prepared the contempt order, a reasonable person might figure they also wrote the preliminary injunction. Court documents in the case, which you aren't supposed to see, show that a hearing on the injunction was held on September 30, the day after we were "served" with court papers during an unlawful traffic stop by Shelby County deputy Mike DeHart.

On October 1, apparently less than 24 hours after the hearing, Neilson issued a four-page order, granting Riley's Petition for a preliminary injunction. The heavily footnoted document includes references to roughly 15 court cases. (See the document here; it also is embedded at the end of this post.) What are the chances that a circuit judge could, or would, prepare such a document and have it issued in less than 24 hours? The answer that forms in my mind is "slim and none."

The preliminary injunction, like the contempt order, was prepared in advance, almost certainly by Rob Riley's law office. To top it off, the preliminary injunction is filled with citations to law that are inaccurate, off point, bogus, or some combination of all three. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

Welcome to a real-time view of how law actually is practiced in Karl Rove's Alabama.

You know what they say about bacon: You might like to eat it, but you don't want to see it being made. The same idea applies to our justice system, in Alabama and probably many other states.

Just how ugly can it get? We have much more coming.


(To be continued)








Monday, October 21, 2013

Alabama Republican Rob Riley Seeks Blogger's Arrest Over Series Of Investigative Posts



Rob Riley
Alabama Republican Rob Riley has filed a proposed court order that seeks the arrest of my wife and me for reporting on certain topics here at Legal Schnauzer.

Riley, who reportedly plans to seek the U.S. House seat being vacated by Spencer Bachus, wants two citizens arrested for--get this--practicing journalism.

The preceding paragraphs were not taken from The Onion. They also were not pulled from a document that dates to Josef Stalin's Soviet Union. They are for real, and they are happening right now in Karl Rove's Alabama. (What makes my home state "Karl Rove's Alabama"? The answer can be found in Joshua Green's definitive article on the subject, "Karl Rove In a Corner," from a 2004 issue of The Atlantic.)

Rove no longer presides over the White House, but Rob Riley's actions are glaring proof that Rovian arrogance and lawlessness still reign over Alabama and other deep-red states across the South.

Riley's father, two-term GOP governor Bob Riley, took office in 2002 on the "strength" of blatant election theft that Rove acolytes almost certainly engineered. Bob Riley also benefited from $20 million that GOP felon Jack Abramoff has admitted funneling into Alabama because a proposed education lottery from Democrat incumbent Don Siegelman posed a financial threat to Abramoff's Indian-gaming clients in neighboring Mississippi.

The skinny? Rob Riley is deeply connected to some of the most corrupt activities in modern American political history. So it should be no surprise that Riley objects to reporting that calls his "pro family" public stances into question. It also should be no surprise that Riley is trying to quash our reporting on the subject, especially now that Spencer Bachus has surprised many observers by deciding to abandon his safe Congressional seat.

How exactly is Rob Riley trying to circumvent the First Amendment and force our reporting out of public view? The latest salvo is found in a cover letter and proposed court order, dated October 7 and prepared under the name of Jay Murrill, an attorney in the Riley Jackson law firm. (See a copy of the cover letter and proposed order at the end of this post.)

The proposed order explicitly seeks to have my wife and me arrested if we failed to appear at a court hearing that was set for last Thursday (October 18) at the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana. The hearing was designed to hold us in contempt for refusing to abide by an unlawful preliminary injunction. Here is the key segment of the proposed order:


Pursuant to Ala. R. Civ. P. 70A(c)(2), Respondents [Mrs. Schnauzer and me] are hereby notified that failure to appear at the aforesaid hearing may result in an issuance of a writ of arrest pursuant to Ala. R. Civ. P. 70A(d) to compel the Respondents' presence.

Did we attend the hearing at Rob Riley's kangaroo court? No, we did not--and here are three reasons why:

* We have not been lawfully served with the summons and complaint, meaning the court has no jurisdiction over us. Shelby County Sheriff's deputy Mike DeHart "served" us during the course of an unconstitutional traffic stop, and service has been challenged as improper and invalid;

* We were not given lawful notice of a hearing on the preliminary injunction, meaning no such injunction currently exists under Alabama law;

* Such an injunction violates the "prior restraint" doctrine that forbids injunctions in defamation lawsuits. Prior restraint grew out of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and has only been around, in one form or another, for about 230 years.

In a semi-functional democracy, Rob Riley would be embarrassed to file such a proposed court order. Retired Circuit Judge Claud D. Neilson, who was appointed by the Alabama Supreme Court to hear this case, would be embarrassed to even think about granting it.

But this is Karl Rove's Alabama. Long-settled law and constitutionally guaranteed civil rights mean little or nothing here.


(To be continued)




Friday, October 18, 2013

Rob Riley's Efforts To Silence Legal Schnauzer Posts Draw Comparison to Hee Haw's Junior Samples



Wayne Madsen
Republican Rob Riley's efforts to silence our reporting on certain topics involving lobbyist Liberty Duke are akin to what one might expect to see in a third-world country, a Washington, D.C.-based investigative journalist writes.

Wayne Madsen has more than 20 years of experience with national-security issues, and his journalism has appeared in numerous daily newspapers, including The Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is the editor of the online Wayne Madsen Report, and his work has appeared in a wide variety of political journals from both the left and right, including In These Times, CorpWatch, and The American Conservative.

Madsen minces no words about Riley's unlawful efforts to seek a preliminary injunction and contempt finding against me, my wife, and this blog. (Why are Riley and Ms. Duke, suing Mrs. Schnauzer? They claim she is "administrator" and "contributor" at this blog. Never mind that I am Legal Schnauzer's one and only author.)

Even though we have not been lawfully served with the Riley/Duke complaint, my wife and I have seen court filings that indicate they are seeking our arrest for . . . get this . . . practicing journalism. You can almost hear Madsen's eyes rolling and his teeth clinching as he writes about Rob Riley's antics. (Wayne Madsen Report is a subscription-only Web site, but we have received permission to reprint some of his material here. Madsen's full article about the Rob Riley injunction can be viewed at the end of this post.)

Writes Madsen:


Roger Shuler, a veteran journalist with 13 years with the Birmingham News and a graduate of the University of Missouri's School of Journalism, one of America's top journalism education institutions, now knows what it's like to be a journalist in a Third World country like Sierra Leone or Honduras.
After writing a series of articles on his website Legal Schnauzer, Shuler has been hit with a "nuisance subpoena" by prospective GOP U.S. House candidate Rob Riley, the son of Alabama's former Governor Bob Riley, the man whose political chicanery and vote count rigging cost Democratic Governor Don Siegelman his job in the 2002 election and paved the way for Bob Riley to move into the Governor's Mansion in Montgomery for two terms. The younger Riley is planning to run for the seat of retiring Representative Spencer Bachus and is launching his bid by silencing Shuler, one of Alabama's most outspoken muckraking journalists bird dogging to Rileys and their nepotistic and kleptocratic political corruption.

Madsen is just getting warmed up with that blistering salvo. He goes on to note our recent reports about U.S. Judge Bill Pryor, a long-time ally of the Riley family and Bush-era political strategist Karl Rove:


Junior Samples
Shuler has also gone after U.S. Judge Bill Pryor, a former Alabama Attorney General who is now a member of the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals who refused to recuse himself in the appeal of Siegelman who was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison on trumped up charges brought by a cabal of Karl Rove GOP politicos in the U.S. Attorneys' Offices in Montgomery and Birmingham in a trial presided over by U.S. Judge for the Middle District of Alabama, Mark Fuller. Shuler doggedly pursued sex scandal stories involving Fuller, Pryor, and current Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, all Republican "family values" politicians.
Shuler's latest story concerns nude photographs of Pryor published by a gay porn website specializing in erotica featuring young males. So what's the problem if Pryor was of legal age at the time the photos were taken? Shuler nails it in one sentence: "In 2005, Pryor wrote a brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Texas anti-sodomy law where he argued that decriminalized gay sex would lead to legalized necrophilia, bestiality and child pornography." Well now. I guess the Eleventh Circuit should ensure that Pryor keeps his distance from funeral homes, barns, and day care centers.

Madsen has written extensively about Alabama's dysfunctional political culture. But even a veteran like Madsen seems taken aback by the absurdity of Rob Riley's recent actions:


WMR has been reporting on political and judicial malfeasance in Alabama for a number of years. Overall, Alabama Republican politicians and judges evoke memories of Al Capp's Jubilation T. Cornpone, Hee Haw's Junior Samples, and Green Acres's Eustace Charleston Haney, otherwise known as "Mr. Haney." Bumbling, goofball, ignorant, and corrupt vestiges of a bygone plantation-era South don't even come close to describing what passes for judges and political leaders in the state that refers to itself as the "Heart of Dixie."

The judge who has been assigned to hear the Riley/Duke complaint has a dubious past, Madsen reports. That would be the retired Claud D. Nielson, of Demopolis:


Rob Riley convinced Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore, of Ten Commandments-in-the-courtroom infamy, to appoint retired Alabama state judge, Claud Neilson, to act as a special judge to handle a lawsuit brought by Rob Riley against Shuler and his wife. Neilson is the man who, in 2009, dismissed remaining deadlocked counts after a jury voted not guilty on the majority of sexual abuse, sodomy, and assault charges brought against Mobile Circuit Court Judge Herman Thomas. After Riley Junior submitted a motion for all matters in his suit against Shuler to be sealed, Neilson agreed.
Only in Alabama could a journalist be enjoined by a judge not to write about a candidate for public office. This action by Neilson is a flagrant violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Alabama remains subject to the U.S. Bill of Rights, regardless of what the Tea Party and its ZZ Top- and Charlie Daniels-looking truckers and motorcyclists may believe.

Madsen finds a certain level of humor in Riley's actions. But he also notes their potentially serious implications:


Reporting on Alabama politicians is like taking a walk down nostalgia lane behind the "Kudzu Curtain"
The actions by Neilson raises the issue now being debated in Washington about media shield laws for journalists. A number of entrenched politicians, including Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas and Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, do not believe independent journalists with websites, blogs, or newsletters should be considered journalists under a federal shield law that would protect only corporate journalists from having to testify before juries and grand juries about their sources. . .
The Alabama nuisance subpoena, SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit, and court gag order against Shuler and his wife not only have repercussions for the press in Alabama but a finding against Shuler and Legal Schnauzer will definitely be used as cited case law for other corrupt politicians to bring legal action against independent journalists in other jurisdictions far beyond Alabama.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

U.S. Judge Bill Pryor Does Not Respond To Questions About Strabismus And Its Role In Gay Porn Photos


Bill Pryor
Both federal judge Bill Pryor and a young man who posed under that name at a gay porn Web site in the 1990s appear to have an eye condition called strabismus. The Bill Pryor who sits on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, however, wants no part of taking questions on the subject.

The Eleventh Circuit is based in Atlanta, but Pryor's primary office--his "duty station," as it's called in the judicial trade--is at the Hugo Black U.S. Courthouse right here in Birmingham. Pryor's residence is in the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills, not too far from my home in North Shelby County.

It seemed only natural to contact Pryor and seek comment about strabismus, which affects 3 to 4 percent of the U.S. Caucasian population and appears to be present in at least two gentlemen named Bill Pryor--one who sits on the federal bench and one who revealed all for the gay porn Web site badpuppy.com in the 1990s.

You might think that Pryor, with his lifetime appointment that is 100 percent funded by taxpayer dollars, might feel an obligation to answer questions from the public on any number of topics, even one that understandably might make him a tad uncomfortable. But you would be wrong.

We kept our query about strabismus short and sweet, trying to make things as convenient as possible for Pryor. But he still wouldn't bite. Here is the message we sent via e-mail:


Bill:
This is a followup on my reporting at Legal Schnauzer.
Do you have a condition known as strabismus, which is a crossing or misalignment of the eyes?
Have you ever been treated for strabismus?
Would you release copies of your medical records as it relates to any and all eye care?
Thank you,
Roger Shuler

Pryor already has denied that the young man in the badpuppy.com photos is him, so you might think it would be easy for the judge to reply, "The guy in the porn photo isn't me, and I don't have strabismus."

Of course, we have photographic evidence that suggests both "Bill Pryor, the judge" and "Bill Pryor, the porn star" do have strabismus. 

Maybe that's why the judge wanted no part of our questions.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Traffic Stop In Shelby County Was Unconstitutional In Order To "Serve Process" In Rob Riley's Lawsuit



A Shelby County sheriff deputy trampled the U.S. Constitution when he recently conducted a traffic stop to "serve" my wife and me with court papers in a defamation lawsuit that Alabama Republican Rob Riley has filed against us.

Lt. Mike DeHart probably committed a criminal act when he stopped our vehicle without probable cause to believe a traffic violation had been committed. DeHart compounded his lawless acts by unlawfully prolonging the traffic stop in order to serve us with court papers.

A traffic stop is considered a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, which protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. A law-enforcement officer who treats such matters loosely is asking for serious trouble.

DeHart essentially urinated on 45 years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent on the law of traffic stops. In the process, he gave us grounds for a civil-rights lawsuit, a criminal investigation via the U.S. Justice Department and the Alabama Attorney General's Office--and he ensured that "service" in the Riley lawsuit is improper and invalid.

What are the implications? We have grounds to sue DeHart, Sheriff Chris Curry, and anyone else in the department who knowingly participated in, planned, or approved the unconstitutional traffic stop.

We also have grounds to seek an investigation of a criminal conspiracy. The governing criminal law is found at 18 U.S.C. 242 (Deprivation of rights under color of law).

The law on traffic stops in the United States--at both the federal and state levels--largely is based in a Supreme Court case styled Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). Any law-enforcement officer should be well acquainted with the provisions of Terry, plus the hundreds of cases that have grown from it.

Officer DeHart acted as if he had never heard of the Terry case. In fact, DeHart seemed to find his unlawful traffic stop amusing, especially when he handed me the court papers--after his "traffic business" had concluded--and smugly said, "Mr. Shuler, you've been served."

My response? Officer DeHart, you've been unmasked as a lawless thug--and your career might be in jeopardy.

Here are the basics of traffic-stop law, as found in a long line of cases from the Eleventh Circuit, which covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida:

* The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. Const. amend. IV. “A traffic stop is a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.” United States v. Purcell, 236 F.3d 1274, 1277 (11th Cir., 2001)

* Ordinarily, when a citation or warning has been issued and all record checks have been completed and come back clean, the legitimate investigative purpose of the traffic stop is fulfilled. United States v. Simms, 385 F.3d 1347, 1353 (11th Cir., 2004)

* However, an officer may detain an individual beyond the purposes of the traffic stop if there is “articulable suspicion illegal activity has occurred or is occurring” or if the driver consents. United States v. Pruitt, 174 F. 3d 1215, 1220 (11th Cir., 1999)

DeHart claimed I had rolled through a stop sign while making a left-hand turn at a "T intersection" in our neighborhood. I immediately told him I did not roll through the stop sign, and we have shown that DeHart likely could not even see the stop sign in question from his stated location. (For the record, I believe DeHart was waiting for us at or near the North Shelby County Library, where he made the stop. I don't think he was anywhere in the vicinity to see me stop and turn left at the T intersection.)

DeHart had no probable cause to believe a traffic violation had occurred, so his traffic stop amounted to an unreasonable seizure from the outset. But he really stepped in doo-doo by prolonging the stop to hand us court papers. The "legitimate purpose" of the traffic stop had been fulfilled at that point, and DeHart could only detain us further based on "an articulable suspicion illegal activity has occurred or is occurring."

Clearly, Mrs. Schnauzer and I were not engaged in criminal activity in the parking lot of the North Shelby County Library in broad daylight. 

That means DeHart went way beyond his lawful boundaries, simply to serve a lawsuit on Rob Riley's behalf. In the process, the deputy probably engaged in a criminal act, and if we have a say in the matter, his law-enforcement career might soon be over.


(To be continued)

A Blog About Gay Porn Enlists The Help Of Its Readers In Tracking Down Additional Photos Of Bill Pryor



Bill Pryor at
badpuppy.com
A blog that spotlights news in the gay porn industry is asking its readers to help track down all of the photos of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor that appeared at badpuppy.com in the 1990s.

GayPornBlog.com (GPB), which definitely is NSFW (Not Safe For Work), picked up on a story that we broke here at Legal Schnauzer. The GPB post is titled "Did Notoriously Anti-Gay Federal Judge William Pryor Pose Nude for Badpuppy?"

The GayPornBlog report says the Pryor photo gallery included 12 images. We have published only one photo so far, although our sources connected to Alabama law enforcement say their investigation in 1997 turned up "eight or nine" images.

Pryor's unfriendly public stances toward the gay community attracted the attention of editors at GayPornBlog:


A former state attorney general of Alabama from 1997-2003 (and the youngest state attorney general at the time), Judge William Pryor was nominated to the Eleventh Circuit by President George W. Bush in April, 2003.
Since then, the staunchly conservative judge has proven to be an outspoken homophobe. In 2005, Pryor wrote a brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Texas anti-sodomy law where he argued that decriminalized gay sex would lead to legalized necrophilia, bestiality and child pornography.
Lambda Legal Task Force President called him “an ideological tyrant of the highest order.”

Who are the folks behind GayPornBlog? The site's "About Us" page says it is the work of Jack Shamama and Mike Stabile. Here is more about the site:


Gay Porn Blog has been blogging about gay porn since there was an internet with porn to blog about. It has been featured in Salon, Slate, Huffington Post, Out and many others.
It is run by Mike Stabile and Jack Shamama. Jack Shamama was born in Brooklyn and moved to Miami’s tony South Beach for his adolescence. He’s been fending off men ever since. Jack prefers Yoko Ono and Jessica Simpson.
Mike Stabile first discovered the power of porn in boarding school, when he would trade his father’s Playboy centerfolds for social currency. He’s been trading sex for favors ever since. Mike likes John Lennon and Ashlee Simpson.
Mike and Jack have been best friends since college and both work in the gay porn industry. Their writing has, collectively and separately, appeared in magazines such as Playboy, Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, the Village Voice, Pug Talk, Out.com and others.

That intro might be light-hearted, but these guys are not lightweights. Shamama is an award-winning author, producer, and screenwriter. Much of his commentary has focused on technology, social networking, and adult entertainment. He has been interviewed by a number of news outlets about Apple products.

Stabile has extensive experience as a documentary filmmaker, and currently is working on a film about GLBT philanthropist Chuck Holmes. An industry publication named GayPornBlog the best adult blog of 2005, and several of Stabile's screenplays have been nominated for GayVN Awards.

Obviously, GayPornBlog has been around a long time, and it has a high profile in the blogosphere. We can't help but be impressed with the blog's public spirit, as seen from its determination to help unearth any and all gay-porn photos of Judge Bill Pryor. After running a nude photo of Pryor from badpuppy.com next to one of Pryor in his judicial finery, the GPB editors had this to say:


It seems like it could very well be Pryor, who is a married father of two. Posing naked is not something we would normally chide someone for doing. Given the fact that he’s been classified as one of the most demonstrably anti-gay judicial nominees in recent memory adds a level of hypocrisy to the whole equation. What do you guys think? (Also, if anyone has any of the other 11 photos from the set, please feel free to email them to us!)

That e-mail address at GPB is jack@fauxjob.com.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lawyer Tony Farese Coaxed Guilty Plea From Client With Threat About a 75-Year Federal Prison Sentence


Tony Farese
How many ways can a criminal-defense lawyer cheat his own client? The prosecution of Mississippi insurance broker Ken Nowlin presents a classic case study on that disturbing question.

The Bush Justice Department indicted Nowlin, alleging he and former Lafayette County Supervisor Gary Massey had engaged in a kickback scheme involving an employee health-care contract. The case never went to trial because both men pleaded guilty, but a growing body of evidence suggests they were unlawfully pressured to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit.

How could this happen in a democracy where counsel supposedly has a sacred duty to represent the best interests of his client? The answer seems to be this: Quite a few attorneys do not take their sacred duties seriously--and that especially seems to apply at the Ashland, Mississippi, firm of Farese Farese & Farese.

We've already shown that one member of that august firm, Steve Farese Sr., was so busy sexually harassing client Penni Tingle that she wound up entering a guilty plea that she now seeks to have overturned. Anthony L. "Tony" Farese was slightly more subtle with his client, Ken Nowlin. But the end result was the same--a government target wound up pleading guilty to a "crime" we now know he almost certainly did not commit.

Our research indicates members of the Farese firm are more interested in gaining favor with government prosecutors than in representing the best interests of their clients. We also see signs that the Farese lawyers are not alone; Birmingham lawyer G. Douglas Jones, who once served as defense counsel for former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, seems to have a similar habit. In fact, Jones testified before Congress in 2007 about his undying respect for Bill Pryor, the former Alabama attorney general and current federal judge who is responsible for launching the Siegelman investigation.

How did Tony Farese coax a bogus guilty plea out of Ken Nowlin? For one thing, it's important to understand that federal statutes tend to be written in such murky language that most citizens have no idea what they say. God only knows how many Americans have pleaded guilty to violating statutes that they could not begin to understand--and in some cases, we are talking about defendants who are well educated.

Public documents show that Farese used a sort of "yin and yang" game with Nowlin--failing to dig for information that might have proven his client's innocence, while applying extraordinary pressure about the dangers of going to trial. (See document at the end of this post.) Let's take a closer look at how these two con games worked:

* Evidence, what evidence? Court documents show that Nowlin informed Farese repeatedly that Massey had a letter from Lafayette County Scot Spragins, saying that the payment arrangement Nowlin and Massey planned to implement was lawful. In fact, Nowlin told Farese and assistant U.S. attorneys Tom Dawson and David Sanders about the letter during a meeting on March 19, 2007. From the court file, where Nowlin is referred to as "petitioner":


During this meeting, Petitioner explained how and why he paid Massey the way he did. He also told them about the letter Mr. Massey said he had that allowed Petitioner to pay Mr. Massey the way he did. When Mr. Dawson asked Petitioner for a copy of the letter, Petitioner told him that he did not have one but they could get a copy of the letter from Mr. Massey. He explained that he and Mr. Massey did not conspire to hide anything and that there was no kickback or bribe involved in the way he paid Mr. Massey. Petitioner told them that Mr. Massey did not even know how he was paying him.

Did Farese make any effort to obtain a copy of this letter, which likely would have proven his client's innocence? It doesn't look like it. Nowlin wound up pleading guilty, and five days later, a Mississippi newspaper published an article about the Spragins letter to Massey.

* The prospect of a 75-year sentence--Nowlin began frantically calling Farese's office, to get a meeting about withdrawing the guilty plea. They could not meet with Farese until almost two months later. Larry Nowlin attended that meeting with his brother and provides this account in an affidavit:


Partly on my advice, Ken pled guilty on July 27, 2007. On September 28, 2007, I drove Ken to Ashland to see Farese. During this meeting, Ken told Farese that he wanted to withdraw his guilty pleea and tried to explain to Farese that he would have earned his four percent override on the Lafayette County insurance account no matter who had the insurance with the county. Farese became very angry and told Ken that he could not understand how he had ever made what he had made of himself as dumb as he was. Farese told us that we were not going to embarrass him and started dictating a letter saying that he was getting out of the case and told us to get out of his office.
Farese called me later that day and told me that if Ken was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, he could be going to prison for 75 years. Farese also told me that if Ken insisted in going to trial, it would cost Ken more than $200,000. On my advice, Ken wrote Farese and told him that he did not want to withdraw his guilty plea . . .

Ken Nowlin wound up being sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. But we can all be thankful that Tony Farese was not embarrassed before his prosecutorial buddies.


(To be continued)