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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Judge Gary Pate does not mention in divorce order that steel exec. Bill Upton broke up marriage by having sex with young woman who was raised as his daughter


Bill Upton
What is the surest sign that Private Judge Gary Pate conducted a monumental cheat job in the Upton v. Upton divorce case? It might be that Pate's Final Order of Divorce does not even mention perhaps the central issue in the case.

Plaintiff Bill Upton, the multimillionaire president of Vulcan Steel Products, admitted in court documents to carrying on an extramarital affair with Gincie Walker, a young woman he and his wife had raised as their daughter, Court records indicate the affair was the driving event behind the breakup of Bill's marriage of more than 30 years to Linda Upton. Alabama law holds that a court may make an allowance to the spouse who was the victim of marital misconduct.

But Pate's Final Judgment of Divorce reads as if Bill Upton never admitted to having sex with a young woman who was essentially his daughter--and it apparently happened, for the most part, at the marital residence. (See Final Judgment of Divorce at the end of this post.)

On top of that, Linda Upton's attorney, MaryLee Abele, filed a Motion to Alter or Amend that states "The Husband openly admits his infidelity with a mental patient/former sibling to the minor children." (The term "mental patient" is a reference to Gincie Walker, who has been diagnosed with multiple-personality disorder. She reportedly has been found to have roughly 30 distinct personalities.) (See Motion to Alter or Amend at the end of this post.)

Did George R. Fernambucq, Bill Upton's attorney, address the infidelity issue in his response to the motion to amend? No, he did not. Like Pate, Fernambucq acted as if the Bill Upton/Gincie Walker affair never happened--even though information about it came directly from Bill Upton's deposition. (See Upton's response to Motion to Alter or Amend at the end of this post.)

Fernambucq also tried to ignore the fact that Linda Upton received nothing approaching an equitable share of the marital assets, to which she is entitled under the law. Consider this sleight of hand from Fernambucq's response to the motion to amend:

That the allegations in Paragraph six (6) suggesting that the Court only awarded the Defendant her inherited property and "most of the marital property to the Husband" is absolutely incorrect. This allegation overlooks the fact that the Defendant was awarded substantial marital property, some of which included a note payable to the Defendant from the Plaintiff's business with a value of approximately $1.4 million, a beach house that has no debt and a value of approximately $3.6 million, a one-half interest in the residence in Birmingham which has a value of $3.6 million, and an I.R.A. which was funded entirely by the Plaintiff for the Defendant's benefit with a value of  approximately $120,000.

Fernambucq, of course, conveniently confuses the issue: the issue is not whether Linda Upton received "substantial marital property," in his opinion. It's whether she received an "equitable share" of the property, based on the record and Bill Upton's admitted misconduct. The record strongly suggests that she did not--and it isn't even a close call.

Gincie Walker Upton
Code of Alabama 30-2-52 shows that Private Judge Pate butchered the Upton divorce, and a case styled Shirley v. Shirley, 600 So. 2d 284 (1992) drives that point home. From the Shirley ruling:

Section 30-2-52 permits a trial court, upon a finding of misconduct by one spouse, to make an allowance to the other spouse out of the estate of the offending spouse, as the circumstances may justify, provided "that any property acquired prior to the marriage of the parties or by inheritance or gift may not be considered in determining the amount."

Was misconduct present in Shirley? The trial court determined the answer was yes, and the Alabama Supreme Court agreed:

The record reveals that the parties' marriage was beset with extreme unpleasantness. In the pleadings and at trial, each party placed blame for the breakup of the marriage on the other. The husband claimed that the wife was verbally abusive, argumentative, and vindictive and that she interfered with the operation of his business both during the marriage and after the parties' separation. The wife claimed that the husband had a violent temper, had been physically abusive during the marriage, had been dishonest in his handling of the parties' finances, and had engaged in numerous extramarital affairs. At trial she specifically alleged that the husband had, without her consent, misapplied a number of her real estate commission checks for his personal use and had attempted to misappropriate certain life insurance proceeds of which she was the sole intended beneficiary. The husband denies that he has ever been dishonest in handling the wife's money or that he has engaged in adultery, although he admits to having engaged in sexual activity with a woman not his wife on three occasions.

The trial court made no specific finding of adultery, granting the divorce on . . . grounds of incompatibility of temperament and irretrievable breakdown. However, in the judgment of divorce the court recognized the husband's sexual infidelities and made specific findings of his marital misconduct and financial dishonesty toward the wife and other parties. We have thoroughly reviewed the record and conclude that there is ample evidence to support the trial court's finding of marital misconduct by the husband. . . . 

What impact should such misconduct have on the outcome of a divorce case? From Shirley:

Where one spouse is guilty of misconduct toward the other spouse, the trial court's award may be as liberal as the estate of the offending spouse will permit under the circumstances of the case. Isom v. Isom, 273 Ala. 599, 143 So. 2d 455 (1962).

In other words, Bill Upton could have, and should have, taken a major financial hit for engaging in misconduct that a reasonable person might decide was way worse than that present in Shirley. But Upton's attorney did his best to cover up the issue, and the judge made no mention of it.

Did Linda Upton get the due process and equal protection of the law guaranteed her under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Not even close.


(To be continued)








Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Former Wall Street darling Ted Rollins, angry about our reports on his dubious divorce case, has turned defamatory statements into the ugliest of "art forms"


Ted Rollins during his halcyon
days on Wall Street
(From tedrollins.org)
What is the price of reporting accurately about individuals connected to legal and political corruption in Alabama? It can be steep, especially if you care about your reputation.

Attacks from powerful forces can come in a variety of forms. I've been kidnapped by law enforcement and thrown in jail for five months, contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law. My wife, Carol, and I lost our Birmingham home of 25 years to a foreclosure that reeks of likely unlawful activity. We were subjected to a flagrantly unlawful eviction at an apartment in our new "home" of Springfield, Missouri, and a Greene County deputy brutalized Carol to the point that she was left with a shattered left arm that never will be the same.

Evidence strongly suggests these events were retaliation for our reporting on a number of conservative rogues--Rob Riley, Liberty Duke, Luther Strange, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Bill Pryor, and more.

All of that has been reported here, and at other news sites, but less well known are the attacks on my reputation. And that is a timely subject, given recent reports that Gov. Robert Bentley tried to use law-enforcement resources to gather dirt on me and try to stop our reporting on his extramarital affair with former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

How ironic is this? I've twice been accused of, and been sued for, defamation--by Garrison and Riley/Duke--and in both cases, my reporting was found (as a matter of law) not to be false or defamatory. Less well known are the defamatory attacks against me--that I've been a repeated victim of the most vile defamation. I've yet to receive justice for any of the false information published about me--but that might change in the not-too-distant future.

The defamation against me has come from a variety of sources, but perhaps no one has been more blatant about it than Ted Rollins, the former CEO of Campus Crest Communities and the subject of numerous posts here about the cheat job administered in Shelby County against his ex wife (Birmingham resident Sherry Carroll Rollins) and their two daughters.

Rollins once was a darling of Wall Street, despite our reports here about his ties to domestic violence, child abuse, failure to pay child support, and other unpleasantness. Wall Street analysts, in fact, had direct knowledge of Rollins' abusive tendencies, but they chose to ignore it. Only when it appeared Rollins was about to drive Campus Crest Communities into the financial gutter, did the company's board give him the boot.

According to reports in the business press, Rollins has resurfaced as the founder of Valeo Groupe, which is focusing on student housing in places like Great Britain and Finland. He also is principal and chairman at Watercrest Group and Watercrest Holdings, which focus on senior housing.

How long will it be before investors, employees, or customers become aware of Rollins' background and his tendency to run companies into the ditch? Who knows, but the CEO's primary talent seems to be producing defamatory Web sites--with yours truly as the target.

Rollins is the "genius" behind Legal Schnauzer Exposed, an attack site that seems to have disappeared from the Web in recent days--hmmm, wonder why that is--but still can be found in archive form. It seems clear that Rollins, or someone connected to him, was behind the uber classy rogershuler.com, which has mostly disappeared, but a search still produces an entry that refers to me as "Satan's Earthly Emmissary" (sic). If my memory is correct, the site intimates that I have sex with animals and that I am a racist and a homophobe.

Finally, we discovered legalschnauzer.info, which suggests I have "psychological issues," based largely on the words of highly informed right-wing blogger Stacy McCain. (All of us who have brains have "psychological issues," right? That doesn't mean we have psychological problems, I presume. The only way not to have psychological issues is to be dead. You can see the nonsensical form of writing that tends to appear on these sites.)

We also know that Zac Parrish, Rollins former stepson and Sherry Rollins' biological son, set up an attack site, cleverly called mountschnauzer.com. Parrish got outed here for his handiwork before mountschnauzer.com could get off the ground, and the site died a quick death. What a loss for the literary world.

You will notice that the words "mount schnauzer" form a clear reference to anal, or doggy style, sex. Talk about Freudian, given that North Carolina social services investigated Ted Rollins for possible child sexual abuse, based on the complaint of a citizen who apparently had observed his interactions with Zac Parrish. On top of that, it's a matter of public record that Ted Rollins was convicted of assaulting Zac Parrish when the latter was about 16 years old and roughly half his stepfather's size.

Rollins has saved some of his finest "craftsmanship" for tedrollinstruth.com, of which he must be quite proud because he provides a link on his LinkedIn page. Most people use LinkedIn as a resource to show that they are competent professionals. Not Ted Rollins. He uses it to show he is a lying, defaming, bullying thug. Just the kind of guy I would want to run a company with my investments.

How off the rails is Rollins? You can get an idea from a post, published February 24, 2015, with the title "The Truth About Ted Rollins." Here we go, for starters:

In the fall of 2010, Mr. Ted Rollins came under attack by the Legal Schnauzer, a known and convicted cyber bully by the name of Roger Shuler. Mr. Shuler collaborated with Mr. Rollins’ ex-wife to spread untruths in the wake of her divorce from Mr. Rollins. This was an attempt to discredit Mr. Rollins after their divorce and also to extort additional money from him beyond what was provided by the divorce.

The only source that Mr. Shuler has ever had is Mr. Rollins’ ex-wife, who has used false information and Mr. Shuler’s lack of integrity to try and advance this ill-intentioned outcome. There are countless negative stories circulating on the web about Mr. Rollins and his family, all written by the Mr. Shuler aka the Legal Schnauzer blog. These stories are based on the untruths told by Mr. Rollins’ ex-wife and embellished further by the Mr. Shuler.

Exhibit A is an affidavit from Mr. Rollins’ ex wife that clearly states Mr. Schnauzer misrepresents the truth.

Let's see if we have this straight: Ted Rollins claims his ex wife, Sherry Rollins, tells "untruths" about him. But then he has Ms. Rollins sign an affidavit claiming I misrepresent the truth. If Sherry Rollins is a congenital liar, as Mr. Rollins claims, why should anyone believe a word she says in an affidavit about me? If she lies about Ted Rollins, she can lie about me, right?

Here is the real story behind Sherry Rollins goofy, and utterly untruthful affidavit. Ted Rollins was threatening to have her utilities shut off at the Birmingham rental house where she lives with their two daughters. She felt she had no choice but to sign the bogus affidavit Ted Rollins wanted her to sign.

Ted Rollins still is using such threats. According to Ms. Rollins, he has vowed to stop paying court-ordered alimony and child support in May 2016--when youngest daughter Emma graduates from Mountain Brook High School--and have daughters and ex wife kicked out of their rental home. What a guy, that Ted Rollins.

How nutty is tedrollinstruth.com? He claims the only source I've had on the case is Sherry Rollins? I guess that doesn't count the dozens of court documents upon which I've based my reporting.

Let's check out more from Ted Rollins Truth, which might be the most ironically named site in the history of the Web:


About Roger Shuler – The “Legal Schnauzer”

Below is a summary of Mr. Shuler aka the Legal Schnauzer Blogger.

▪ The Legal Schnauzer aka Roger Shuler is a one-man blogger who claims to be a journalist, but is not. Furthermore, he does not bother to follow practices of a professional journalist. Rather, he plays fast and loose with some facts, fabricates most of his content and uses unreliable sources to create a tabloid-type blog that produces false information.

▪ He is known in Alabama as a negative blogger for hire that writes destructive innuendo to harass his victims.

▪ The Legal Schnauzer has been incarcerated twice for slandering various parties in Alabama. (FYI: Ted Rollins was convicted for assault on his teen-aged stepson in North Carolina. Ted Rollins "Truth" makes no mention of that.)

▪ From 1989 until 2008 Mr. Shuler was a content editor for the University of Alabama at Birmingham until he was terminated for inappropriate behavior. At the time Mr. Shuler also threatened the then President of the University.

▪ Mr. Shuler has been unemployed since 2008 and uses his blog as a means for extorting money from people by posting negative blog comments and trying to evoke a response from his subjects. He does this by writing his main post on his blog, The Legal Schnauzer and then by linking this post to other sites such as Daily Kos. (FYI: Mr. Rollins here falsely accuses me of a crime--extortion. Under the law, it's not a good idea to falsely accuse someone of a crime; it's called "defamation per se.")

Mr. Shuler cannot pay his bills and has a very uncertain employment history. He lives on unemployment, welfare and disability and has not been employed since he was terminated from the University of Alabama, Birmingham where he threatened the life of some school officials. (FYI: Ted Rollins failed to pay court-ordered child-support for almost three years. Records indicate much of the money owed to Rollins' daughters never has been paid. In other words, Ted Rollins is a deadbeat dad. Ted Rollins "Truth" does not want you to know that. Again, Ted Rollins falsely accuses me of threatening to kill certain UAB officials. That's known as "defamation per se.")

▪ Mr. Shuler’s credit reports indicate that he routinely defaults on his debts and litigates as a strategy to avoid payment. (FYI: Court records show that Ted Rollins still owes child support to his children and that he failed to make court-ordered payments on mortgage and insurance to ensure his wife and children had a place to live during divorce proceedings. No word from Ted Rollins "Truth" about that. And by the way, how does Ted Rollins know anything about the contents of my credit reports? Does he have any lawful grounds for obtaining that information? I can't think of one.)

▪ Mr. Shuler was arrested and convicted in 2014 for failure to follow a judge’s order regarding the removal of defamatory and untrue statements regarding one of his targets. (FYI: A South Carolina court issued a bench warrant for contempt of court [failure to pay child support] and ordered Ted Rollins' arrest. That warrant was in place for more than two years, and records show Rollins never paid the full amount he owed, so he was a fugitive from justice. South Carolina law enforcement apparently did not bother to execute the arrest warrant, which apparently is one of the benefits Ted Rollins receives from being born into one of the nation's wealthiest families. On a final note, none of my reporting ever has been found to be false or defamatory, as a matter of law.)

▪ A default judgment was entered against Mr. Shuler in the amount of $3.5 million. (Editor's note: No lawful default judgment ever has been entered against Mr. Shuler.)

▪ Mr. Shuler is currently believed to be in hiding to avoid answering the default judgment, but continues to publish his blog. (In hiding? My contact information is available in multiple places on this blog. Plus, I've already answered the default judgment and proven that it is void, as a matter of law. Why "answer" it again?)

▪ More information can be found about Roger Schuler (sic) on http://www.legalschnauzers.com,

To borrow a phrase from the late Ann Richards, it looks like Ted Rollins was "born with a silver foot in his mouth."

How many ways has Ted Rollins defamed me here? Well, I'm not sure I have enough fingers to count that high. But the highlighted sections above show some of the biggest doozies. For fun, we suggest you click on the legalschnauzers.com link and see what you get. It was active just a few weeks ago.

Why hasn't the author of Ted Rollins' posts put his name to them? Shouldn't he be proud of such "work product"? Here are a few reasons the author might wish to remain anonymous:

(1) He has falsely accused me of crimes (extortion, terroristic threats)--not a good idea under defamation law;

(2) He falsely claims I've been incarcerated twice;

(3) He falsely claims I've been incarcerated for "slandering" someone. I've never been accused of slandering anyone, and slander is a tort (not a crime), which means you can't be arrested for it;

(4) He falsely claims I was fired at UAB for "inappropriate behavior" and that I threatened university president Carol Garrison and other university officials;

(5) He falsely claims I cannot pay my bills and I live on "welfare and disability";

(6) He falsely claims I was "convicted" of failing to follow a judge's order in a civil case.

I could go on, but you get the idea. There is very little truth to be found at Ted Rollins "Truth." And these kinds of bogus attacks are what you can expect from a CEO whose sense of entitlement apparently dwarfs his intelligence.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Does divorce court frown on husband who admitted to having an affair with young woman who was raised as his daughter? Not in Jefferson County, Alabama


Bill Upton
What should happen in divorce court to a husband who admitted to an extramarital affair with a mentally disabled young woman he and his wife had raised as their daughter--and the affair was a central event in breaking up his marriage of more than 30 years? Most citizens probably would say, and the law generally holds, that the husband should pay dearly for marital misconduct that might reasonably be described as grotesque.

But that's not how it works when the husband is Alabama steel executive Bill Upton, described in court documents as a "multimillionaire." The Final Judgment of Divorce in Upton v. Upton, dated December 4, 2012, suggests private judge J. Gary Pate was more impressed with Bill Upton's status as president of Pelham-based Vulcan Steel Products than he was with any issues related to facts, law, or general fairness. (The Final Judgment of Divorce can be read at the end of this post.)

To a member of the middle class, it might appear that Linda Upton got a pretty good deal in the divorce. But considering that Bill Upton reportedly has a net worth in the $40 million to $60 million range--and that estimate might be low--one can see that Linda Upton got a raw deal of epic proportions.

Linda Upton helped get the business off the ground, working in the plant during the early years, and her parents helped manage the company for a number of years. She and her husband adopted or foster parented numerous special-needs children over the years, with Linda providing most of the hands-on care.

We've seen nothing in the court record that indicates Linda Upton was found to be an unfit mother, but Judge Pate awarded physical custody of the children to Bill Upton. Many of the children, according to court records, considered Gincie Walker, Bill Upton's mistress, to be their sister. How confusing must that have been to the younger children? One can only imagine. But here is how Judge Pate ruled on the custody issue in his final order:

3. (a) The Husband and Wife shall be awarded joint legal custody of the minor children of the parties, David Upton, born September 4, 1994; Brandon Upton, born April 4, 1997; and Polly Upton, born May 11, 2007 ("the children"). The Husband shall be awarded sole physical custody of the children.
Is there anything in the record that supports an award of sole physical custody to Bill Upton? We have not found a single word to support that.

Bill Upton has since married Gincie Walker, who has been diagnosed with multiple-personality disorder. That means the younger children are in the control of a father who had little to do with their upbringing and a mother/sister who has a severe mental disorder.

How did Judge Pate come to this custody decision? The order provides no clues.

Linda Upton receives $4,350 a month in periodic alimony, but she received zero in gross alimony. She did not even receive the marital residence. From Pate's order:

11. (a) The parties jointly own a residence at 2870 Shook Hill Road, Birmingham, Alabama. It shall be placed on the market and sold. The Wife shall have exclusive possession pending sale unless she moves. . . . 

Linda Upton wound up staying at the home, but only after she had paid Bill Upton for his share of the property. And this was a husband who admitted to conducting an extramarital affair, apparently under the marital roof.

Gincie Walker Upton
Pate's order is written in a confusing fashion regarding property division, but Linda Upton apparently has received virtually nothing from the business enterprises built during their marriage. Here are the business-related items that Pate awarded exclusively to Bill Upton:

12. The Husband shall receive sole title to and ownership of the following, with Wife being divested of any interest therein:

a. First Commercial Bank checking account

b. Ohio National Life Insurance

c. National Copper

d. Vulcan Threaded Products

e. Peltown Realty (This company, by the way, appears to have a pretty cozy relationship with the City of Pelham.)

f. Wings LLC

g. Windwood Group

h. Windwood Farm

i. Vulcan Threaded Products--Husband's note receivable

j. Vulcan 401k Profit Sharing

k. His IRA

Item D particularly jumps out. Vulcan Threaded Products was the name of what is now Vulcan Steel Products, the family's primary business. It appears Linda Upton received little or no share in the company's proceeds--and the law is clear that she was entitled to an equitable share.

How can a divorce, which was precipitated by the husband's egregious marital misconduct, result in such a lopsided decree? It would be hard to fathom in a world where the law and facts mattered. But in postmodern Alabama, and I suspect in many other states, it happens quite often.


(To be continued)




Monday, April 25, 2016

Plaintiffs suing Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site in massive data breach will have to use their real names as class-action litigation moves forward


Individuals suing Ashley Madison for failing to secure their personal information at the extramarital-affair Web site will have to proceed without the cloak of anonymity, a federal judge ruled last week. If a plaintiff does not want to use his real name, he will have to drop out of the class-action litigation, which has been consolidated at U.S. District Court in St. Louis, Missouri.

At least one Alabama law firm, Heninger Garrison Davis of Birmingham, is representing a number of plaintiffs in the case. Judge John Ross's ruling essentially dovetails with our reporting on the Ashley Madison (AM) story. We have been revealing the real names of AM customers for several months, focusing on high-level professional elites (lawyers, doctors, CEOs, wealth managers, etc.), who make up a significant percentage of users in Alabama and Missouri, the two states that have been our focus.

To our knowledge, we are the only U.S. Web site to reveal elite users of AM, providing key identifying information--real names; addresses; employers; names of spouses and children; and in some cases, account information (credit-card transactions, amount of money spent, etc.) Most reporting on the AM story has focused on technical, legal, and social issues related to the data breach itself, but we are the only news site--best we can tell--that consistently has provided information about users. We plan to continue that reporting soon, and you can see examples of our investigative work here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The technology news site Ars Technica, now owned by Conde Nast Digital, broke last week's story about the anonymity ruling, From the Ars Technica report:

We all remember last year's hype surrounding the Ashley Madison dating site's data breach. Hackers exposed identifying information about millions of users of the site that has the tagline, "Life is short. Have an affair."

Then came the lawyers smelling blood in the water—filing proposed class-action suits targeting the cheating site's not-so-perfect "Full Delete" option that was supposed to, and didn't, remove all identifying information from the service for a $19 fee per user. Then it surfaced that the site perhaps made phony profiles of women to attract more men to the site.

The massive litigation has been co-mingled in Missouri, and there are some interesting elements at play. For starters, the judge presiding over the case says that if you want to be a named plaintiff in the litigation, you can't use a pseudonym like "John Doe," and instead you have to use your real name. The judge, in agreeing with Ashley Madison's owners, ruled that only in extraordinary circumstances may civil litigation proceed under fake names, like in cases such as sex crimes and suits about juveniles.

Upon what did Judge Ross base his ruling? Ars Technica provides details, and the full ruling can be read at the end of this post:

"The disclosure of Plaintiffs' identities could expose their sensitive personal and financial information—information stolen from Avid when its computer systems were hacked—to public scrutiny and exacerbate the privacy violations underlying their lawsuit," US District Judge John Ross ruled . . .  earlier this month. "At the same time, there is a compelling public interest in open court proceedings, particularly in the context of a class action, where a plaintiff seeks to represent a class of consumers who have a personal stake in the case and a heightened interest in knowing who purports to represent their interests in the litigation." Days ago, a "John Doe" plaintiff removed . . .  himself from the case.

Ross has given unnamed plaintiffs until June 3 to lodge their official class-action complaint and to give them time to decide if they want to be named plaintiffs or dropped out. Another contentious issue is on the table, as Ars Technica describes:

There's also a big wrinkle that could affect the upcoming class-action filing. Attorneys want to use confidential communications between Ashley Madison executives and their attorneys as part of their lawsuit in a bid to establish that the company made fake female profiles to induce people to become one of the site's 39 million members. Obviously, Avid Life Media, the site's operator, is opposed. Plaintiffs' lawyers say the data is not protected by attorney-client privilege and can be part of the case because of the "crime-fraud" exception. That exception means that a client and their attorney's back-and-forth communications are not protected if the communications were made "with the intention of committing or covering up a crime or fraud." The plaintiffs' lawyers noted a story in Gizmodo citing the hacked data in which Avid Life attorneys are discussing "fictitious" profiles on the Ashley Madison site.

Judge Ross has not ruled on the request but is expected to do so before the June 3 filing deadline.



Friday, April 22, 2016

"Tuscaloosa Trio," led by former Robert Bentley legal advisor Cooper Shattuck, had every opportunity to respond to questions--but they chose to remain silent


Cooper Shattuck
Cooper Shattuck, former legal advisor to Gov. Robert Bentley and current general counsel at the University of Alabama System, appears to play a major role in the sex scandal that now is bearing down on Tuscaloosa--as we reported yesterday.

Like Bentley, Shattuck portrays himself as a man of God, but he has problems with issues of the flesh--not to mention apparent workplace favoritism. Our post mentions his relationships with Lisa Waldrop, media and communications director at Shelton State Community College, and UA deputy counsel Katie Osburne as examples.

Stories like this tend to generate much harrumphing, and we've seen this before. I broke the story of Bentley's extramarital affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason last August, and in recent weeks, the whole world has learned that our reporting was accurate. I faced defamation lawsuits after reporting on extramarital affairs involving Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke and Attorney General Luther Strange and Jessica Medeiros Garrison--and I even was thrown in jail for five months for daring to report on such topics.

What did the lawsuits prove? Not a thing for the plaintiffs. For me, as a matter of law, they proved that my reporting was not false or defamatory.

Like key figures in the other stories, Shattuck and Co. were given an opportunity to respond to questions, but they chose not to. Here are questions I sent via e-mail to Cooper Shattuck, with copies to Ms. Waldrop and Ms. Osburne:

Mr. Shattuck:

I am a journalist from Birmingham and publisher of the blog Legal Schnauzer, which covers justice issues in Alabama and beyond.

I have reported extensively on the affair between Gov. Bentley and aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason and issues connected to that. In my research, your name has come up frequently. Therefore, I would like to ask that we schedule a time for a telephone interview. If that is not possible, I would like to give you an opportunity to comment on the following topics:

* I understand that you had (or are having) an extramarital affair with Lisa Waldrop, who is assistant director of media and communication at Shelton State. Are extramarital affairs common among current and former members of the Bentley administration? What does that say about the ethical standards of Alabama's governor and his associates?

* I understand that you were associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Tuscaloosa, and Ms. Waldrop was the worship leader, when your affair started. I further understand that both of you have lost your church positions in the wake of revelations about the affair. Has the affair continued, and have you sought work in other churches?

* I understand that you hired Katie Osburne to be your chief deputy at UA. I also understand that there was no official posting for the job, that you created it specifically for Ms. Osburne. I further understand that Ms. Osburne has relatively little legal experience, but you elevated her over more qualified members of the UA staff. Why have you championed Ms. Osburne to such a degree?

* It has been reported that you set up the Alabama Council for Excellent Government (ACEGOV) as a nonprofit while still working for the Bentley administration. Where has money for ACEGOV come from and where has it gone? How much of the money has gone to Rebekah Caldwell Mason? Would you provide copies of documents that show the in-flow and out-flow of funds connected to ACEGOV?

Like most journalists, I work on deadline, so I ask that you respond to this e-mail by 5 p.m. on March 4.


Sincerely,

Roger Shuler

http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/
(205) 381-5673

A health-care professional provides insights from the front line about delusional disorder: What it really is and how real cases can manifest themselves


Our post earlier this week on delusional disorder prompted one of Mrs. Schnauzer's Facebook friends to send a message that provides significant insight on the subject. The friend is a psychiatric nurse practitioner in a Midwestern state, and like Carol and me, she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a violent encounter with law-enforcement officers.

She's been on the front line, both as a health-care professional and the victim of police abuse, of issues related to incidents where those who are sworn to "serve and protect" actually do harm. We thought her insights would shine considerable light on "delusional disorder" for our readers, so we are sharing them here.

A note: The woman makes several references to "Matt," and that refers to Matt Charles, the Missouri nurse practitioner who apparently made a notation about delusional disorder in my medical records. Just two days ago, Matt Charles confirmed to me that the notation had been removed, suggesting there never were factual or medical grounds for it to be there in the first place. I'm still not sure how, or why, it got there, but I appreciate Matt Charles' help in clearing it up. Meanwhile, here are some insights from a professional about delusional disorder:

I just read your husband's blog. I was a psychiatric nurse practitioner (PNP). I worked with people with delusional disorders. These patients believed things such as . . . following a car accident a woman believed she had glass in her stomach and refused to eat. A man who believed his neighborhood would be flooded and went into all their houses to shut off the water.
Schizophrenics suffer from delusions that are most often associated with the auditory hallucinations they experience. Alzheimer's patients become paranoid and often delusional about family members stealing their belongings or poisoning their food. Delusional disorder differs from these examples as the false and fixed belief is not a symptom of another psychiatric illness as was noted in the blog.

A PNP can diagnose and prescribe medications but these actions can only be done under the supervision of a board-certified psychiatrist. Delusional disorder is an inappropriate diagnosis in patients who have ANY type of evidence that supports their claims/ allegations. In many cases, confronting a patient about his delusions, only creates mistrust and hampers the therapist-client relationship. My questions about Matt evolve around what information he used to make the diagnosis...

Is Matt a certified psychiatric NP? Did the NP ever state that he believed Roger? Did Roger ever give him documents that supported his thoughts that he found credible? Did the NP use past medical records from AL that influenced his thinking? Did the NP use family reports regarding their perception of Roger's mental health? Was Roger treated for depression, severe enough to exhibit psychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations? Did NP prescribe medications for Roger such as antidepressants or antipsychotics? Was there an entry in the MR indicating a positive response to these medications with a decrease in symptoms?

I was diagnosed with PTSD following the violent assault which I still struggle with today. I remain paranoid about the police but my thoughts are not deemed pathological/ delusional. I have spent years dealing with the many aspects of betrayal, from those are supposed to protect and serve to family members who thought I was on drugs (thanks to my ex- husband), to the elected government officials who chose to bury my case. If I ever felt my health care professionals doubted what I had been through, it would have been devastating.

I hope this information assists you in your search for answers. I also found several articles about PTSD and delusions. I will continue to help you in any way I can as we share the experience of police brutality and surviving police trying to kill us.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Former Bentley legal aide Cooper Shattuck, with fleshly sins of his own, could take center stage as governor's scandal bears down on U of Alabama


Cooper Shattuck
The sex scandal engulfing Alabama governor Robert Bentley, according to a report yesterday, is moving rapidly toward Tuscaloosa--like a tornado on Doppler radar. Tuscaloosa, of course, is home to the University of Alabama, and the Bentley scandal might leave a number of folks on the UA campus with crimson faces.

Chief among them might be Cooper Shattuck, the university's general counsel. As UA's top legal officer, Shattuck manages the work of 21 attorneys and 15 support-staff members. Before returning to his alma mater to take its top legal job, Shattuck served as chief legal advisor for . . . Gov. Bentley.

It's easy to see why Bentley might have considered Shattuck an attractive addition to his staff; the two men seem to have quite a bit in common. Both have connections of various kinds to Rebekah Caldwell Mason, who as Bentley's senior advisor and mistress, helped set the scandal aflame. Both seem to have played roles in the curious stream of funds that have been flowing to Mason and her husband, Jon Mason, partly through the University of Alabama. Both apparently consider themselves men of God, but sources tell Legal Schnauzer that Shattuck (like Bentley) has allowed issues of the flesh to influence his professional life.

According to multiple news reports yesterday, UA has paid Jon Mason's company almost $75,000 this year for services related to billboards in Dallas and Phoenix, before Crimson Tide football games in those cities for the 2015-16 national-championship season. Mason's company, however, did not design, create, or install the billboard ads. It appears Mason's firm, JRM Enterprises, did little more than act as a go-between for the company that rents out the billboards.

Lisa Waldrop
Where does Cooper Shattuck fit into this picture? The answer is not clear yet. But we know, while still Bentley's advisor, he set up ACEGOV, a "dark money" nonprofit organization that has paid at least $15,000--and possibly much more--to Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

How is this for irony? Bentley named Shattuck and Rebekah Mason to his staff on the same day, January 13, 2011.

If Shattuck helped funnel money to Bentley's mistress, is it likely he was involved in schemes to funnel money to her husband? An ongoing federal investigation perhaps will provide clarity on that question.

Can you imagine UA's chief legal officer at the heart of a federal investigation into apparent slush funds for Gov. Bentley's mistress and her husband? That might be harder for the Crimson faithful to swallow than an Iron Bowl loss to Auburn.

It's not like Cooper Shattuck hasn't been involved in messy situations before. Within at least the past two years, our sources say he has engaged in an extramarital affair with Lisa Waldrop, who is assistant director of media and communication at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa.

A 2012 article about Shattuck's move from the Bentley administration to UA described him as "married with four daughters." He was divorced in 2014, and it's not clear if he is currently married. It also is not clear if the affair with Waldrop is ongoing, but the two have paid a professional price for it.

Katie Osburne
Shattuck used to be an associate pastor at First United Methodist Church (FUMC) in Tuscaloosa. He oversaw the church's contemporary service, called The Bridge, and Waldrop served as its worship leader. The affair started via the church affiliation, and when top administrators became aware of it, Shattuck and Waldrop were asked to leave. They no longer appear as staff members on the FUMC Web site.

Shattuck also has played a curious role in championing the career of UA lawyer Katie Osburne. sources say. He reportedly hired Osburne to be his chief deputy at UA, even though there was no official posting for the job. Sources say Shattuck created the position specifically for Osburne, who has a relatively thin legal resume and was elevated over UA attorneys who have much more experience and stronger qualifications.

Published reports show that Osburne worked at Rosen Harwood, the same Tuscaloosa firm where Shattuck once worked. Published reports indicate Osburne graduated from law school in 2007. So, with less than 10 years of professional experience, she finds herself as the No. 2 legal officer for the three-campus UA System, which includes more than 63,000 students and almost 28,000 faculty and staff.

Is Katie Osburn qualified to hold that position--or is she the most qualified person on the UA legal staff to hold that position? Taxpayers, who fund her salary, might want to ask themselves that question.

We sought comment for this post from Shattuck, Waldrop, and Osburne, but they did not respond.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Will Jessica Medeiros Garrison sue former Alabama Senate President Lowell Barron now that he has spoken publicly about her affair with Luther Strange?


Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange
(From marieclaire.com)
Former Alabama Senate President Lowell Barron recently stated on a radio program that Republican operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison had an extramarital affair with Attorney General Luther Strange. Barron's comments, coming on Marcus Echols' BlogTalk Radio show, might present a quandary for Garrison.

Is Garrison going to sue Barron and, for that matter, Echols? After all, that's what she did to me after I broke the story of the affair with Strange, for whom she served as campaign manager. Garrison received a $3.5-million default judgment against me, but that might only deepen her quandary regarding Barron. That's because Garrison's public statements indicate she does not put much value on her own default judgment.

History suggests that Garrison and her GOP allies (Bill Pryor, Jeff Sessions, Luther Strange, Rob Riley, etc.) don't necessarily stop at dubious lawsuits in their efforts to silence those who might air their dirty laundry. Is Garrison going to participate in a scheme to have Barron kidnapped and thrown in jail? Is she going to help have Barron's home wrongfully forced into foreclosure, placing him on the brink of homelessness?

My wife, Carol, and I experienced all of that not long after my reporting on the Garrison/Strange affair--plus Garrison's documented ties to organized crime. We do not know what, if any, role Garrison played in the abuse we suffered, but let's just say the timeline is interesting--and we intend to learn more.

Here is a sample of what we know for now:

* I break the story of Garrison's affair with Strange on July 17, 2013;

* I break the story of Garrison's ties to Erik Davis Harp, who was indicted for his role in a Panama-based gambling ring, on August 22, 2013;

* I break the story of the gambling ring's ties to the Genovese and Gambino crime families on August 26, 2013;

* I break the story of Garrison's apparent sweetheart deal on a $400,000 home in Mountain Brook on October 22, 2013.

The very next day--October 23, 2013--Shelby County officers enter our home, beat me up inside my own garage (without presenting a warrant, stating they had a warrant, or even stating their reason for being on the premises), essentially kidnapped me and hauled me to the Shelby County Jail for a five-month stay that had zero support in fact or law.

You can see what I mean about an "interesting timeline" regarding my incarceration. And the curious events do not stop there.

When I was released from jail on March 26, 2014, Carol and I immediately were faced with threatened foreclosure on our home of 25 years. Under Alabama law, the sole purpose of a foreclosure is to collect an alleged debt. If it is conducted for any other reason--with an ulterior motive--it is a wrongful foreclosure, and that is illegal. [See Reeves Cedarhurst Development Corp. v. First American Fed Savings, 607 So. 2d 180 (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1992: "A mortgagor has a wrongful foreclosure action whenever a mortgagee uses the power of sale given under a mortgage for a purpose other than to secure the debt owed by the mortgagor."]

Lowell Barron
(From politico.com)
Was there an ulterior motive behind our foreclosure--not to mention my incarceration? Well, the two combined made it impossible for Carol and me to save our home--and that made it impossible for me to defend myself in Garrison's lawsuit. Who benefited from my imprisonment and the foreclosure on our home? Jessica Garrison--and Luther Strange, for that matter--definitely did.

So, back to our question: Will Garrison sue Lowell Barron? We doubt it. For one, Barron's statements are true. For another, Barron has proven he has the resources to fight back against Strange and Garrison. Barron has shown that neither Strange nor Garrison can hold up to adversarial questioning under oath--and aggressive gathering of documents--about their relationship.

Finally, Garrison's own words indicate she knows her default judgment against me isn't worth much more than a plug nickel. Consider this from an article by Rob Holbert at Lagniappe Mobile after publication of Garrison's PR-attack piece at maireclaire.com.

Garrison said she is fighting to have Google remove searches that would take people to Shuler’s stories about her. With the defamation judgment against him, she hopes that will soon happen. As for collecting any of the $3.5 million award, Garrison laughed and said she hasn’t gotten a dime and never expects to since Shuler’s various run-ins with the law, loss of employment and foreclosure on his home have left him with little money.

“We told him if he would take the articles down and apologize to the people involved, he could satisfy the judgment for $1, but he wouldn’t do it,” Garrison said.

This might actually contain a kernel of truth, which would be unusual (in my experience) for Garrison or Holbert. Davy Hay, a Clanton-area lawyer who represented me briefly, stated via e-mail that Garrison lawyer Bill Baxley said the lawsuit could be resolved if I paid $1 and removed the offending posts. I never heard anything about an apology, and I never received anything in writing from the other side--so I did not consider it a legitimate settlement offer. Plus, I was not about to remove blog posts that I knew were true. Garrison essentially was using the same "extortion against journalist" strategy that Rob Riley used, with a bogus $3.5-million judgment substituting for a jail term as the extortionate mechanism.

(On a side note, Davy Hay was portrayed in various quarters as my "legal champion." [See here and here.] That did not turn out to be the case. "Legal chump" might have been a more accurate description. Hay did little, if anything, to help me fight the Garrison lawsuit, and he wound up bailing out and leaving me hanging, contrary to a written contract that we had. More on that experience in an upcoming post. I know many Alabamians have received similar treatment from lawyers who are supposed to be their "legal champions.")

Even if I had thought the $1 offer was legit, I was not about to accept such a proposal. As we've shown here on multiple occasions, the default judgment is void because (according to Hay's review of the file) I never received--or was even sent--notice of the default-judgment hearing. Also, the record shows there was no trial, no jury, no discovery, no adversarial proceeding of any kind--and, as a matter of law, that means my reporting was not false or defamatory.

How do I interpret Garrison's $1 offer? Here's what I think:

* It's essentially an admission that she never had a case--and she did not come close to proving her case;

* It's essentially an admission that the $3.5-million default judgment has no basis in fact or law, meaning members of the legal tribe schemed with Judge Don Blankenship to corruptly produce a bogus finding;

* She's not about to take on Lowell Barron. After being thrown in jail, and being forced from our home, I had almost no ability to fight the Garrison lawsuit. I suspect Barron has the resources not only to fight Garrison--but he would chew her up (along with Strange) and spit them both out. In the process, their political careers would be finished.

Jessica Garrison v. Lowell Barron? Don't make me laugh.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How did notation about "delusional disorder" end up in my medical records, as revealed during my family's scheme to have me declared a ward of the state?


(From prezi.com)
Dealing with my family's efforts to have my wife, Carol, and me declared wards of the state was baffling--and more than a little infuriating. But the case, which was dismissed at the opposing side's request, did yield some intriguing information. And it indicates the effort to discredit me as a journalist--and to ruin Carol and me as a couple--has extended from Alabama to Missouri, with my blood relatives apparently more than willing to help.

During the course of the case to have Carol and me declared "disabled and incapacitated," the lawyer for my brother Paul asked for our medical records to be produced as part of the discovery process. Judge Carol Aiken--she's actually called a "probate commissioner" under Missouri law--allowed that to happen, even though Carol (my wife) never was served with the complaint/petition in the case. That means Carol never was subject to the court's jurisdiction, but it allowed production of her private medical records anyway. Did the court, my brother, and his attorney (Linda K. Thomas) commit a gross invasion of privacy? I don't know how you could call it anything but that.

As for me, I actually was served with the petition, so I was at least officially a part of the case--and I suppose the production of my medical records was lawful, although it apparently did not provide much of interest to my family.

It did, however, produce information of great interest to me. According to three sources (two lawyers and a nurse practitioner), my medical records include a notation about something called "delusional disorder." How did the notation get in there? The nurse practitioner, Matt Charles of Burrell Behavioral Health, apparently wrote it. Why did he write it, given that he never had mentioned such a condition to me? I don't know.

What is delusional disorder? Here is how Psychology Today describes it:

Delusional disorder refers to a condition associated with one or more nonbizarre delusions of thinking—such as expressing beliefs that occur in real life such as being poisoned, being stalked, being loved or deceived, or having an illness, provided no other symptoms of schizophrenia are exhibited.

Delusions may seem believable at face value, and patients may appear normal as long as an outsider does not touch upon their delusional themes. Mood episodes are relatively brief compared with the total duration of the delusional periods. Also, these delusions are not due to a medical condition or substance abuse.

How can the condition manifest itself? Here's more from Psychology Today?

Themes of delusions may fall into the following types: erotomanic type (patient believes that a person, usually of higher social standing, is in love with the individual); grandiose type (patient believes that he has some great but unrecognized talent or insight, a special identity, knowledge, power, self-worth, or special relationship with someone famous or with God); jealous type (patient believes his partner has been unfaithful); persecutory type (patient believes he is being cheated, spied on, drugged, followed, slandered, or somehow mistreated); somatic type (patient believes he is experiencing physical sensations or bodily dysfunctions—such as foul odors or insects crawling on or under the skin—or is suffering from a general medical condition or defect); mixed type (characteristics of more than one of the above types, but no one theme dominates); or unspecified type (patient's delusions do not fall in described categories).

Was I actually diagnosed with delusional disorder, or was this just a note that Matt Charles decided should be in my records? Is Matt Charles, as a nurse practitioner, qualified to make such a diagnosis? I don't know the answer to those questions, but I'm interested in learning more.

I should say this, however: I like Matt Charles--we both are graduates of Kickapoo High School in Springfield, MO, and we like to think we are the second and third most handsome guys ever to graduate from Kickapoo. (Brad Pitt, the actor, seems to have No. 1 locked up for a while.) Matt has treated me professionally and provided support during the most difficult two years or so of my life; I appreciate what he and Burrell have done for me.

But I don't understand this: If Matt thought I had delusional disorder, why didn't he tell me? I didn't find out it was on my record until our court-appointed lawyer, Dan Menzie, saw the records after they had been produced in discovery. Doesn't a health-care professional have an obligation to say something like, "Roger, a few of your statements make me think you have delusional disorder. Here's what that is, and here is what we are going to do to help you with it"?

I never heard that. When I asked Matt Charles what caused him to make the notation, he said some of the things I'd told him were "outside the norm." He didn't give any examples, but I had this thought: "Haven't almost all people with PTSD experienced something outside the norm? Isn't that why they have PTSD? Wouldn't being abducted in your own home by sheriff's deputies and hauled to jail for five months--with no legal justification--count as "outside the norm"?  But that doesn't mean that episode was a product of my "delusions," does it? It's a matter of public record that really happened. In fact, I haven't made any factual statements to Matt Charles that weren't true.

In a few instances, he has asked my opinion about some event, and I've provided it--noting that this was an educated guess, not a statement of fact.

So, how could Matt Charles know I made any statement that represented a delusion? When I put that question to him, he more or less admitted that he couldn't. "I'd have to follow you around for a long time, and I haven't done that."

How did the notation wind up in my records then? I can think of only two possibilities: (1) Matt Charles just threw it in there on a whim; (2) Someone instructed him to put it in there--or someone else did it on his own.

I've visited Matt Charles roughly every six weeks for about two years, and he does not seem like the sort to act on a whim; I think he is too professional for that. Option No. 2 seems more likely to me. In fact, Matt Charles told me he would remove the notation, but I'm not sure if that has been done.

That takes us back to Alabama--home to numerous powerful types who don't much care for investigative journalists who accurately reveal their foibles and schemes. What better way to discredit such a journalist than to have the words "delusional disorder" placed in his medical records.

Why, if a journalist is "delusional," you can't trust anything he writes.

I'll be the first to say that I have PTSD and depression, and I've been receiving treatment for both. But I do not have anything approaching delusional disorder--and my primary health-care provider (Matt Charles) never told me that I did.

Did someone tamper with my medical records, perhaps making both me and Matt Charles look bad?

I don't know for sure, but I would not be surprised.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Photograph shows Gov. Robert Bentley and former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason arm in arm during swanky ball in February at Washington, D.C. hotel




Who is the happy couple in the photograph above? Why, it's Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason, looking dapper during a formal ball at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The photo, which was taken in February 2016, comes courtesy of Birmingham attorney and citizen journalist Donald Watkins, who features it on his Facebook page.

Let's see . . . we know that Bentley stated in late December 2015 that "rumors" of an extramarital affair were "untrue." But this photo, taken roughly two months later, has the couple looking awfully cozy together. Writes Watkins, under the headline "High-flying Robert Bentley Balling With Rebekah Mason":

Governor Robert Bentley and his lover, Rebekah Mason, were balling in February 2016 at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, where Bentley was attending a meeting of governors. This power couple rocked the place, all courtesy of tax dollars and campaign funds. This is how a governor can live large on ota people's money.

The right-wing site Yellowhammer News (YH) provides insight into discomfort Bentley's family and friends felt as his affair with Mason unfolded:

As [Bentley] walked down the center aisle of the Old House Chamber after delivering the State of the State address, Mrs. Mason was by his side. When he was photographed at a swanky Washington, D.C., gala typically reserved for only governors and first ladies, she was his date. And when any meeting in the Capitol was concluded, she was always the last one left in the room with him.

On a side note, Yellowhammer publisher Cliff Sims could not resist taking a shot at the reporters--Watkins and me--who broke the Bentley/Mason story last summer. Get this from Sims:

Mrs. Mason expressed appreciation last year when Yellowhammer criticized other media outlets for publishing tabloid-style stories on the affair rumors, which at the time were unsubstantiated. I told her at the time that I thought the coverage by other outlets had been unethical. I still believe it was.

It's unethical to print articles, based on multiple solid sources, which prove to be absolutely true six months later? On what planet does Cliff Sims live? His criticism proved unfounded, didn't it? Has Cliff Sims issued a public apology? Oh, wait, he's a conservative, and Jesus doesn't require them to apologize for anything.

According to multiple reports, Planet Sims is a place where the YH publisher serves as a mouthpiece for GOP power brokers like House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) and "consultant" Dax Swatek. Given that Hubbard is under a 23-count indictment for alleged violations of state ethics law, is Cliff Sims in a position to be questioning anyone's ethics? Is Sims a journalist or a political hack?

Perhaps the best, and most entertaining, answers to those questions can be found at "Don't Get Yellowhammered (A Cliff Sims story)" at the Sweet Home Politics blog. From writer West Honeycutt:

Political insiders in Montgomery have long questioned Sims’ rise to success, his source of funding, his uncanny ability to receive news before it actually breaks and his political motive.

“It has been known for sometime and is beyond speculation that the Yellowhammer blog run by Cliff Sims is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Speaker and those in his inner circle. And I don’t know anyone who would claim otherwise…,” said a Montgomery insider and lobbyist.

Yellowhammer deserves credit for contributing to the public's understanding of the Bentley affair. But Cliff Sims is tossing around "unethical" allegations toward those who first brought the story to public attention? He's in no position to be questioning anyone's ethics. Readers should know that Sims' reporting on the Bentley story likely is driven by political considerations.

My family's efforts to have my wife and me declared wards of the state in Missouri is dismissed, leaving a possible trail to Robert Bentley sex scandal in Alabama


My family's legal case, attempting to have my wife, Carol, and me declared "disabled and incapacitated" under Missouri law, has been dismissed. The case, which sought to have a guardian, conservator (or both) appointed for us in probate court, was absurd from the outset. It could essentially have made us wards of the state, but we never came close to fitting the definition of "incapacitated," under the law.

Why did my family ask to have the case dismissed? I'm not sure, but the timing dovetails curiously with events in the Alabama sex scandal involving Gov. Robert Bentley and former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason. We already have seen signs of a possible Alabama connection to our unlawful eviction that left Carol with a shattered left arm. Dismissal of the incapacitation case, in my view, adds to the possibility of an Alabama connection to the abuse we've suffered in Missouri. (By the way, not a single member of my family has asked about Carol's well-being or expressed any sorrow/regret for what Greene County sheriff's deputies did to her. For that matter, they've expressed no concern about my well being either.)

The incapacitation petition, filed by my brother Paul, is filled with false information and deals with issues about which he has zero knowledge--given that he has spent about three hours with us over the past 24 years or so. In Paul's defense, he is a radiology technologist at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, and I feel certain my lawyer brother, David, was the driving force behind this con game. Paul, I guess, was a willing guinea pig, but I have no idea why someone felt the need to put his name on a document where he testified falsely under oath (under penalty of perjury) on matters he knew nothing about.

Dan Menzie, our court-appointed attorney, said Paul's lawyer (Linda K. Thomas) filed a Motion to Dismiss the case--and that was that. I occasionally have troll commenters here claim I've never won a legal case. Well, they can't say that anymore; I won this one, with the other party essentially throwing in the towel and admitting he never had a case. (See judgments at the end of this post.)

The court ordered that Menzie be paid $600 for his trouble, half from a court fund and half from Paul. When I last talked with Menzie, he had not received the money my brother owes him. And Paul thinks Carol and I have trouble keeping up with our finances? Sounds like he isn't so great at it either.

What about damages for Carol and me? We've essentially had our reputations trashed, with documents appearing both online and in printed form indicating (more or less) that we aren't capable of wiping drool off our chins. Those documents will remain in the public sphere forever, I guess, if we don't try to do something about it.

Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
Have Carol and I been damaged? Well, my brother's petition about me claimed that I, as respondent:

* "Lacks capacity to meet essential daily living requirements for food, clothing, shelter, safety or other care such that serious physical injury, illness or disease is likely to occur . . . "

* "Lacks ability to manage his financial resources without supervision . . . "

The petition also claims that I am homeless, although Carol and I never have been homeless. Yes, Carol and I have had our jobs, our careers, and our home of 25 years stolen from us. We've been diagnosed with PTSD, our living circumstances are not good, and we could use help in a number of areas. But we have not been homeless, and we've never shown any sign that we can't take care of ourselves.

This blog alone, which broke one of the biggest Alabama political stories of the past 10 years and has been named one of the top 50 law blogs in North America, is evidence that I'm hardly incapacitated--and neither is Carol.

Do we intend to seek damages for having our reputations smeared? We are considering that possibility.

What about that curious timing regarding the Bentley/Mason scandal in Alabama? Consider this timeline:

March 23, 2016--Audio surfaces that confirms the Bentley/Mason affair, which I broke last August here at Legal Schnauzer, just nine days before our eviction;

March 28, 2016--Reports surface that Bentley pressured law enforcement to use criminal databases in order to gather dirt on me and fellow citizen journalist (and lawyer) Donald Watkins;

March 28, 2016--Paul Shuler's attorney files a motion to dismiss the incapacitation case.

What was my family really hoping to achieve with this charade from the outset? Well, the petition was filed on September 29, 2015, exactly 20 days after Carol and I were unlawfully evicted from an apartment in Springfield, and a Greene County deputy brutalized Carol to the point that her left arm was shattered. I suspect the "incapacitation" lawsuit was some sort of lame response to the fact law enforcement, a landlord, and several lawyers screwed up big time in our eviction case.

On the positive side, the incapacitation case did turn up one piece of fascinating health-care information--and it produced irony that I doubt my family even is capable of comprehending. Both strongly suggest that they are more interested in harming Carol and me, than they are in helping.

More on that in an upcoming post.






Friday, April 15, 2016

Robert Bentley's trip to Las Vegas with Rebekah Caldwell Mason helps prove the governor has been lying for months to the people of Alabama


Celine Dion, in Las Vegas
(From caesar's .com)
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley flew last November to Las Vegas with former advisor/mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason, and the pair attended a Celine Dion concert, according to a report today from al.com.

The story, by columnist John Archibald, raises all kinds of questions about possible misuse of state or campaign funds--and we do not have clear answers to many of those questions at the moment. But this much seems clear: The Vegas trip adds to the mountain of evidence that Bentley has been lying for months about the nature of his relationship with Mason.

What was the trip to Vegas like? Archibald explains:

On Nov. 17 of last year (Editor's note: remember that date), Gov. Robert Bentley boarded a state airplane for Las Vegas, along with his former political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, communications director Jennifer Ardis, Deputy Chief of Staff Jon Barganier and his security detail.

They went to attend the Republican Governors Association Annual Conference.

Oh. And to catch a show. They didn't have to think twice before going to the Colosseum at Caesar's Palace for an elaborate concert by Celine Dion.

Bentley went backstage and made Dion an honorary Alabamian. He posed for pictures with her, which he showed around the office – along with backstage passes for which he was ungubernatorially proud. Mason and Ardis posed for pictures, too. The concert was "amazing," Ardis said.

Bentley's staff claims all was proper with the trip, and public funds were not used. Archibald does not seem to be buying it:

Bentley's staff argues that there is no foul. Ardis said Bentley himself paid for all the Celine Dion tickets, and the Republican Governors Association reimbursed the Bentley campaign for the cost of the conference and the flight. The campaign reimbursed the state, and no taxpayer money was used, she said.

She did provide a copy of a deposit to the state of Alabama in the amount of $11,641.35. It was dated March 25 of this year. It came almost 19 weeks after the trip. And it came 3 days after former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency chief Spencer Collier went public with claims that Bentley and Mason had been engaged in an affair, and that Bentley had been warned that using state or campaign assets to carry out an affair could be illegal.

Ardis said the Republican Governors Association wired Bentley's campaign the reimbursement. She said she does not know why there was a delay or when the payments will appear on campaign finance reports.

For now, the most important questions about the trip might be personal, rather than financial. That's because evidence at the time suggested Bentley and Mason were in a romantic relationship--at least from the governor's perspective. Writes Archibald:

But the concert – and the money – are just part of the issue. Some who have been close to the governor claim Bentley boasted prior to the trip of wanting to use Las Vegas to get some personal time with Mason.

Collier, when asked about the trip, confirmed that Bentley tried to alter his security plan to get a little breathing room, and said Bentley made a concerted effort to keep his security detail away from the events at Caesar's.

So, we have this: On or about November 17, 2015, Gov. Bentley made a special effort to have "personal time" with Rebekah Mason--far from home, in Las Vegas. Roughly one month later--on December 27, 2015--al.com published an interview in which reporter Chuck Dean wrote the following about Bentley:

Throughout the ordeal Bentley, reluctant to talk about the deeply personal issue, would only say it was a personal, family matter.

And he never addressed the unfounded rumors of an affair.

Until now.

"The rumors were not true," said Bentley.

Bentley goes on to blame his problems, for the most part, on bloggers. Considering that I was the blogger who broke the story of the Mason affair on August 31, 2015, it seems safe to say much of his vitriol is directed at me. It's also likely much of it is directed at attorney Donald Watkins, who has written extensively about the sex scandal at his Facebook page:

The governor then seemed to let out months of pent up frustrations.

"There were people on blogs and people in the press who crossed the line. They truly crossed the line. People on talk radio crossed the line," said Bentley.

Bentley said it's hard as a public official to address the kind of rumors that were being spread and he said he felt to directly address them would only serve in some cases to give them credibility.

Bentley said the rumors hurt many people.

"There were many people – my own family and there were a lot of other families – many people, people that I love, that I care about, they went through some difficult times because people were able to say whatever they wanted to say. They were just ridiculous. I don't know how anyone could ever believe them."

By "crossing the line," Bentley apparently means that certain bloggers (Watkins and me) had reported accurately about the governor's sordid activities. Then we learned that Bentley, channeling his inner Richard Nixon, reportedly ordered the use of state and federal criminal databases in an effort to dig up dirt on Watkins and me.

How despicable is Bentley's behavior? Well, we know that on November 17 of last year, he was trying to rearrange his security detail so he could get "personal time" with Rebekah Caldwell Mason--in Las Vegas. Roughly five weeks later, the governor was telling the press "the rumors were untrue," and blaming others for the story getting out.

We now know the "rumors" were more than rumors. The posts that Watkins and I published were right on target--a classic example of citizen journalism serving the public good, unearthing a story that the mainstream press, at the time, seemingly did not want to touch.

We also know the Bentley/Mason coupling apparently went well beyond the borders of Alabama--with no expenses being spared in the process.