An Alabama judge imposed a 90-day sentence Jan. 14 on corruption-fighting Alabama blogger Roger Shuler.
Shuler, shown above, was puffy-faced in his mug shot following his arrest Oct. 23 in his garage in a suburb of Birmingham. Authorities have jailed Shuler indefinitely since then on a contempt of court charge for alleging a sex scandal involving a prominent attorney.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported Jan. 12 that Shuler's jailing in the libel case threatens press freedom. The Times headlined its story, Blogger’s Incarceration Raises First Amendment Questions. Separately, a California federal appeals court overturned a $2 million libel verdict against a blogger, as described in Blogger gets same speech protections as traditional press.
The Times story underplayed the court system's outrageous confiscation of Shuler's rights -- and the damage to the public. The kangaroo court proceedings set back the state's image more than 50 years to the time of the segregationist "Jim Crow" era when libel and contempt of court proceedings were used to crush the civil rights movement.
These days, the Shuler case illustrates how a court system can destroy targeted individuals and businesses by selectively ignoring basic due process protections typically expected in the legal system.
I have researched Alabama's system for five years. Victims include not just bloggers and other individuals like Shuler, but business CEOs and other executives of both parties who stand in the way of the political machine.
Karl Rove and his allies have used Alabama and Texas courts as tools to advance deal-making benefiting political insiders. Thus, my column today is not just about libel, sex scandal, or even politics.
This story, in my view, is ultimately about government-influenced financial deals and other money-making schemes of vast scale and impact on taxpayers and others involved in community affairs.
The full story involves a long and largely hidden history. Also, as an update to this column, I include a response from New York Times reporter Campbell Robertson to my critique of his coverage.
This gist from the Times writer was "I stand by that reporting." He described his research as speaking with "many, many people...some of whom were well-trusted sources with whom I'd worked on sensitive cases amid a hostile establishment, such as the state's immigration law and a politically charged federal investigation into the legislature." His more detailed amplification is below in an appendix.
Let's start with the basics in Shelby County, shown above in red on the Alabama map. The county's pleasant-looking courthouse is portrayed at right.
Now for a darker picture:
In a quickie trial Jan. 14, Shelby County District Judge Ronald Jackson found Shuler, 57, guilty of resisting arrest Oct. 23. The judge ruled that force by Shelby Deputy Sheriff Chris Blevins was justified under the circumstances.
Three other deputies helped Blevins in restraining Shuler and carting him off to jail without even alerting his wife in their home attached to the garage. The left her to worry far into the night why her husband had not returned from a nearby library. Shuler's writing has prompted many death threats that he has reported for years. So, law enforcement failure to provide any alert to family shows how law enforcement is, in effect, at war with the Shulers.
Shuler has no lawyer, and has been jailed on a contempt of court charge nearly four months. Circuit Judge Claude Neilsen issued the contempt order based on plaintiff statements, and sealed the court docket and courtroom to prevent any reporting or other disclosure. Supreme Court law in Alabama, as elsewhere, typically requires open courtrooms.
Neilson is a resident of Demopolis near the Mississippi border recruited by his state's highest court as having the talents to dispose of this case in Alabama's 18th judicial circuit. He has decided to deny bond and hold Shuler indefinitely. Recently, he unsealed the docket.
Shuler unsuccessfully argued last week for a delay so he could prepare a defense. He tried also to prove that authorities had no warrant and still cannot produce one. Additionally, he denied that he posed a threat or reached into his pocket as the deputy Blevins alleged to justify violent tactics to arrest Shuler. Last fall, Shuler and the Justice Integrity Project listed links to pdfs of the key documents. At the suggestion of the plaintiffs, the judge recently unsealed the case.
In view of the apathy of much of the media regarding Shuler's dire circumstances, New York Times coverage in the Sunday edition of the nation's most influential newspaper was a slight net positive for Shuler and other advocates of the First Amendment.
But neither the reporter Robertson, a native of a nearby Alabama community just south of the courthouse, nor his selected experts featured in the article conveyed to the public the appalling danger of a court system operating so lawlessly. Three of those quoted as being critical of Shuler were in effect conservative allies against him. The article examined none of their backgrounds in any depth comparable to the treatment of Shuler.
In particular, the portrayal of lawyer Ken White as a disinterested expert provided readers with a false sense of balance. White's track record shows him to be a conservative activist supporting those fighting Shuler, a progressive.
Much more important: Under de facto direction from the state's highest court, the highly politicized Alabama courts are on the way to destroying a journalist without a real trial or other commonly expected due process safeguards. The major decisions in the Riley case were made in one-sided ex parte hearings, with the courtroom and docket sealed to the public like a Third World system.
The show of force by the judge and county personnel led by Sheriff Chris Curry, above right, are so excessive under the circumstances that they can only be interpreted as police state intimidation designed to teach a lesson to a dissident journalist and any supporters.
These abuses are "in your face" insults to the American public -- especially to the timid journalistic and legal establishment represented by the Times, other media, and most of their professional organizations.
Journalism groups frequently focus on First Amendment rhetoric but fail to protest real-life First Amendment abuses. The groups typically award prizes for far less ambitious stories than Shuler attempts. They organize conferences that optimize revenue by honoring celebrities from journalism and government -- and big-ticket corporate sponsors who want to bask in the reflected glory of a calling that is frequently glamorized in film and other fantasy, but often woefully short in actual performance.
As demonstrated repeatedly in real-life Alabama, bad actors within the court system are trying to ignore or pervert the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The response of the New York Times was, in effect, to split the difference between the perpetrators and the scapegoat victim, Shuler, by investigating him critically but not his adversaries.
Victims include the Alabama public and the rest of America.
Who is standing up for them aside from Roger Shuler? One of the few is Alan Colmes, who invited me to return to his show Jan. 17 at the start of his show nationally syndicated on Fox Talk Radio.
After Shuler’s arrest in October, Colmes promptly took a national leadership role on his show and his blogsite, Liberaland, in the showcasing the injustice, as did a few other broadcasters cited in an appendix below. I appeared Nov. 1 on the Colmes show following my own commentary, which included one Justice Integrity Project column about the arrest that received than 40,000 hits.
Alabama attorney Robert "Rob" Riley Jr. is the wealthy son of two-term GOP former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. The latter is shown below at right during his terms from 2003 to 2011.
The younger Riley has been highly successful as a lawyer, including as co-lead counsel for a class action that won a $500 million fraud settlement from former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. The kind of fees possible from such positioning helps insiders in the legal and political systems. They stand out especially in a state with high poverty and other economic hardship for most of the population. Those with clout have few rivals or watchdogs, in other words.
Missing from the New York Times story -- but vital to the situation -- is this kind of illustration of the high returns available this way to those, like the Rileys, operating at this intersection of business, law and politics.
Jack Abramoff, the one-time notorious lobbyist turned reformer following his prison sentence, told me he had arranged $20 million in donations from gambling interests a decade or so ago to help secure the Alabama elections of Bob Riley, who was ostensibly an opponent of gambling but who benefited from certain gambling interests.
We have previously reported those political, business and legal strategies involved in Alabama's gambling industry, including the waste of millions of dollars of taxpayer money in unsuccessful criminal prosecutions of electronic bingo operators targeted by the Rileys, their gambling industry supporters, and federal authorities.
Last year, some pundits speculated that the younger Riley was positioning himself for a political campaign this year, such as for a vacancy created by the retirement of a congressman in the Birmingham region. Rob Riley is married, and prominent in church and other community affairs.
The younger Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke sued Shuler in July for libel. Shuler had claimed during several columns in 2013 the two had an affair that broke up Duke’s marriage after Riley paid for an abortion. The plaintiffs submitted affidavits denying an affair or abortion. I have contacted them via their lawyers and court personnel for additional comment and questions, but have received no response from any of them. Also, Karl Rove declined via an aide my request for comment on these topics.
Roy Moore is the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. In that post, he became nationally known a decade ago as "The Ten Commandments Judge" for installing a monument, at right, on courthouse grounds.
After long litigation in which he and his proponents advocated for the monument he refused to implement a U.S. Supreme Court ruling specifically forbidding the installation as violating the Constitutional concept of state-sponsored religion.
Moore was removed from the court, but was re-elected in 2012 and resumed wielding the gavel a year ago.
With that track record his way, he promptly intervened in the Riley-Duke libel suit last summer to bring Claud Neilsen out of retirement to handle this specific case in a so-far unexplained departure from normal random assignment of elected local judges to hear cases.
Neilsen, shown below left in a file photo, later fined Shuler nearly $34,000 during a trumped-up court proceeding in November.
Shuler, with no lawyer or preparation abilities because he was jailed without bond, was attired in his orange jail jump suit and confined throughout in chains at the ankles, waist and wrists.
The judge and plaintiff attorneys denounced him in a courtroom sealed to prevent reporting or other onlookers.
According to Shuler’s later comments: He protested that he had no way to spike his stories because he is confined to jail. But the judge concluded that circumstance was Shuler's problem, not the court’s. That is Big Government at work.
In this week’s resisting arrest criminal case, the other judge, Jackson, imposed on Shuler a 90-day term, to be suspended if he pays $2,000 in court costs.
But Shuler and his wife, Carol, have no lawyer, income, or savings. Also, they face nearly $34,000 in other penalties imposed by Neilsen in November.
The Times report apparently erred, according to Carol Shuler but not Robertson, in stating that Shuler has rejected the need for an attorney.
This controversy over the Shuler's desire for representation is a central focus of my column today. The problems point to a need for readers to obtain diverse sources of information beyond the mainstream media.
As a “newspaper of record,” the Times tends to rely heavily on the same judges and other officials whose conduct sometimes merits investigation. I have observed such situations for more than four decades, including as metro newspaper reporter and magazine columnist primarily covering courts before I became a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C.
Generations of Americans have made jokes deriding lawyers in a spirit more in keeping with Shuler’s blog than the courthouse reporters who often defer to authority. A judge, police chief or prosecutor makes news on an ongoing basis. We as reporters know we're supposed to imagine everyone might be a truth-teller, but it's a lot easier for those harried by deadlines to imagine that office-holders are the best source.
The Times, as the nation's most prestigious newspaper, did defer that much. But its coverage still failed to examine Neilsen’s appointment and his judicial order keeping the case sealed in violation of open court traditions.
Update: Moreover, the judge has a highly active private practice, including a major case targeting the partners at Sanders and Sanders, one of Alabama's leading civil rights law firms. That litigation has important political dimensions that could bias the judge's income if he prevails against Sanders and Sanders, whose lead partner is a Democrat, State Sen. Henry Sanders of Selma.
In the Shuler case, the judge seemingly violated his own order for a sealed courtroom by permitting his brother to greet the plaintiff Riley effusively before a pivotal hearing in November, according to Shuler and a second source of mine.
Shuler and my other source believe that for a member of the judge’s family to flaunt an unknown relationship with Riley was so improper that it must have been intended to intimidate the journalist and show that all resistance to Alabama’s power structure is futile.
The Times reporter, Robertson, is an Alabama native based in New Orleans since 2009 after Times experience covering war in Iraq and gossip in New York. I assume his skills and intentions are impressive. So, my critique is not personal but just part of the ongoing search to establish relevant facts.
Robertson quoted several lawyers, including Riley, regarding Shuler with scant reference to their own motives and track records. He cited California attorney Ken White, for example, as a seemingly neutral expert without mentioning that White has been involved in highly partisan disputes for years on behalf of ultra-right partisans who have exchanged insults and lawsuits with their counterpart bloggers on the left, with both sides seeking arrest orders of their opponents. Tens of thousands of email, Twitter, and Facebook insults have been exchanged in such battles, as suggested by such columns as Why Is Team Akbar So Invested In Believing That Roger Shuler Comments Here? in November, 2013. Its anonomous author wrote, "After the arrest of Alabama blogger Roger Shuler on October 23, right wing blog speculation over the identity of RogerS, who leaves comments here from time to time, reached fever pitch. Robert Stacy McCain, Aaron Walker, John Patrick Frey, Kimberlin Unmasked, and even Ken White all weighed in with excitement bordering on bloodlust."
By contrast, Alabama attorney Jill Simpson, for example, gave sworn congressional testimony in 2007 that Riley conspired to help frame on federal charges his father’s Democratic rival, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Riley provided an affidavit denying the claim, but the attorney has never been subjected to cross-examination on her important allegations.
Free Press Precedents
What is the solution to bias, omission or error in news coverage?
Aggressive, independent reporting by mainstream and freelancers alike.
Necessary also is public awareness and support for the nation’s civil rights legal precedents that enable journalists like Shuler to function. Outside pressure is necessary if powerful local political figures want to suppress journalists and jail them without trial or bond in a secret proceeding, as occurring in Alabama.
As an indication of the stakes, Mississippi businessman John Nowlin shared his view with me of Shuler's public service.
Since June 2007, Roger Shuler has tirelessly documented political prosecutions in the Deep South with passion and a dogged determination to inform the public of what he believes to be grave injustices committed against the public, which I witnessed in my dad's case pending in Mississippi’s federal courts, U.S. v. Nowlin (No. 3:07CR108-GHD-SAA-2).
“If some attorney or civil rights organization does not come to Shuler's rescue,” Nowlin continued, “the tyranny will continue. Who will be the next American citizen to be beaten and arrested over exercising the freedom of speech?”
The Times column said that Shuler does not want a lawyer. That seems to be an error harming their chances of obtaining counsel.
Shuler’s wife Carol, right, is a co-defendant in the suit who has been permitted by authorities so far to remain in their Birmingham home without arrest. But she has been too frightened to leave for the most part since except for occasional quick trips to a store.
She told me in a phone interview this week that they would very much like to have a lawyer, as they told the reporter.
But they have no money to hire one aside from a defense fund started after the jailing that has received a modest amount of donations, including $200 from the Justice Integrity Project, but nowhere near enough to hire an attorney.
The funding problem for the Shulers is especially difficult because their representation would require a huge retainer and a capable, fearless attorney. Their counsel would have to risk antagonizing judges, prosecutors and others in law enforcement and politics, thereby jeopardizing the rest of the lawyer’s practice. Bar rules restrict free speech and due process by forbidding lawyers from criticizing the judicial process.
Many Alabama lawyers are leery of Shuler also because he has criticized the profession, including several attorneys he has hired in previous and largely unsuccessful litigation.
The Times article included several other questionable digs at Shuler that implied he was a fringe player unworthy of much support or interest.
For example, the article described him as “no stranger to libel suits” as if his more than three decades in journalism have been filled with them.
Carol Shuler said the Riley-Duke suit is the only time they have ever been sued aside from an apparently coordinated libel suit against Shuler last August stemming from his reports that Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange had an affair with his former campaign manager, Jessica Medeios Garrison. Shuler was served with legal papers on that suit Jan. 17 in jail.
Are Claims True? Why Does It Matter?
I have no idea of the validity of Shuler’s investigative reports alleging affairs in these two instances. I have not independently researched those specific issues. If he is wrong he should be liable for damages, of course. A deep apology would be appropriate also in addition to such sanctions
What's vital – and the main point of this column – is that even if the plaintiffs in the suits never had an affair they are not permitted under Supreme Court precedents to force removal of Shuler’s columns pre-trial, as Neilsen has ordered.
At trial, the plaintiffs would likely have difficult proving that Shuler violated the so-called “actual malice” standard applied to public figures in libel law. This standard entitles plaintiffs to damages only upon proof that a writer knew before publication that an allegation was wrong, or proceeded in “reckless disregard” of the truth. A reporter who contacts a target for comment creates a safety net under the law, although liability may still be proven.
This legal background is vital. But the Times gave it short shrift.
My experience in reading hundreds of Shuler’s columns is that he relies heavily on documents and on-the-record interviews, which he makes freely available, and regularly seeks quotable taped recorded comment from the targets of his major charges.
This parallels the training he doubtless received at the respected University of Missouri School of Journalism, and his early years as a reporter for Alabama’s largest morning circulation daily.
In fact, any news organization can make a mistake, as the Times did when it incurred a $500,000 judgment in a Alabama libel suit leading to the 1964 Supreme Court ruling New York Times v. Sullivan. By a 9-0 vote in the landmark First Amendment case, the high court overturned the libel award against the Times as well as nearly $300 million in similar libel judgments against news organizations by Deep South juries. The libel verdict had helped cripple news coverage of the civil rights movement.
The Sullivan decision established the “actual malice” standard in libel law that should have been applied in the Shuler case because Riley -- co-counsel winning a controversial $500 million legal judgment against former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy – is certainly a “public figure” in Alabama even if he does not run for an open congressional seat in 2014.
Similarly, Alabama courts used contempt of court law to jail such civil rights leaders as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to maintain white rule in the 1960s. King shown at left and murdered in 1968, is honored on a federal holiday each year. Yet he was often ignored, harassed, feared, reviled and jailed while he was alive.
The Shulers are in no position to raise such issues effectively, and only a few outside organizations seem to care about their fate or the case’s impact on the law and journalism.
Who Fights for the First Amendment?
One exception is the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which recently named Shuler on its year-end list as the only journalist in the Western Hemisphere being jailed for his writing. CPJ listed more than 200 reporters as jailed on other continents.
The CPJ listing helped prompt the Times coverage, as well as scattered reports elsewhere. The Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are among several other organizations active on Shuler’s behalf.
Without success, I have urged involvement by several of professional journalism organizations to which I belong. For the most part, they plead lack of funding and staff -- as if individual journalists have funding and staff for such fights against unlimited spending by authorities using taxpayer funds.
Journalism snobbery surely factors in the priorities. Most such organizations kow-tow to the agendas of major news organizations, and thus scorn bloggers, who typically do not function in corporate hierarchies and with government-issued credentials.
That is a comfortable but superficial view of history and the free press. I worked 14 years at the nation's oldest newspaper still in business, the Hartford Courant, which was also the defendant in the first press freedom case before the U.S. Supreme Court because of its criticism of then-President Jefferson. I researched the nation's overall early history in journalism for my first book, Spiked.
That background persuades me of the obvious truth that journalists at the time of the Bill of Rights were much more like bloggers than modern journalists. The vast majority of newspapers were opinion sheets run by a printer-publisher or small partnership.
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was a pro-Revolution propagandist. His anonymous pamphlet Common Sense was surely high in the minds of the First Amendment framers. The pamphlet in early 1776 calling for a Declaration of Independence reputedly sold 120,000 copies in three months.
Unfortunately, one effect of the Times coverage last week was to suggest to those national journalism bodies and other readers that the Shulers are stubborn fools who, like other bloggers, deserve their fate at the hands of Alabama plaintiffs and courts.For six years until his jailing, Shuler provided consumer-focused investigative reporting on the Legal Schnauzer. His reports, often reprinted on other progressive blogs distributed nationally, have been a rare, daring voice investigating Alabama and other Deep South lawyers and judges accused of cheating or otherwise abusing the public.
John Nowlin, the Mississippi businessman cited above, is among the grateful litigants and readers who admire Shuler's courage and initiative in serving as their tireless, effective and unpaid advocate at Legal Schnauzer. An independent rating service listed Legal Schnauzer last summer as one of the top 50 law-oriented blogs in the nation, and the only one sustained by an individual without university, corporate or other institutional funding.
Shuler’s site is particularly helpful in Alabama because bar rules there prevent attorneys from criticizing judges except in extraordinary circumstances that few lawyers dare risk.
Moreover, a climate of fear and silence is becoming pervasive (with isolated exceptions) in chilling bar, university, media and other supposedly independent watchdog groups, according to the sources I have developed in five years of intensive reporting on legal abuses in Alabama. One-party rule by Republicans is clearly a factor in limiting civic discourse on a whole range of issues.
An accident involving Shuler in jail involving prisoners or guards would not surprise me given the high-stakes of Shuler's revelations through the years, his mistreatment by authorities so far, and occasional reports of mysterious mayhem in other jails. For example, this 2006 videotape portrays jailers fatally beating a handcuffed jail prisoner in Harrison County, Mississippi, which is one county away from the Alabama border.
Shuler's years of hard-hitting stories have created far more animosity towards him in Alabama than Mississippi prisoner could possibly have created while emptying out his pockets. Judy White, a Birmingham woman whose Republican husband is serving a 10-year sentence on corruption charges arising from his refusal to provide false testimony against Democratic former Gov. Don Siegelman, has been writing a long-running series about the needless cruelty of guards toward political prisoners. One of its latest installments is Forrest City Federal Prison: Where Prisoners Don't Have a Prayer.
Framing the Opposition, Seizing Power
A turning point in Alabama’s recent political history has been the federal-state frame-up of Siegelman, Alabama's governor from 1999 to 2003 and the state’s most prominent Democrat. Siegelman is now serving a long prison term on corruption charges for conduct that in 1999 was not even a crime according to many law professors and other legal experts.
But the court system was rigged to ensure Siegelman’s conviction and Bob Riley’s election in 2002 and 2006, as documented in hundreds of blogs by Shuler as well by the work of many other researchers. Those reports are accessible in the appendix to this column, which connects to linked stories and court filings.
Karl Rove, right, denies any special interest in Alabama, much less wrongdoing in political and legal manipulations. But evidence abounds of his hidden hand.
In Karl Rove in a Corner, the Atlantic Magazine reported in-depth in 2004 on Rove’s consulting work to transform the Alabama Supreme Court from all-Democrat in the 1990s to all-Republican.
Rove later worked in the Bush White House in organizing what became known as “loyal Bushies” in the U.S. Justice Department. One function was to prosecute Democrats in dubious cases, according to evidence arising in the U.S. attorney firing scandal. Those not complicit in political prosecutions needed to fear firing, as threatened for then-New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie and as implemented on nine of the other 93 U.S. attorneys in 2006.
The Siegelman case remains the best known of those prosecutions. But many other cases sometimes targeted Republicans and independents.
As I have documented here and elsewhere many times, some victims in Alabama were Republicans who refused to cooperate in what they claimed was pressure to perjure themselves to help convict Siegelman unjustly. These included Siegelman’s co-defendant in the criminal case, Richard Scrushy, and former Birmingham County Commissioner Gary White, each punished by long prison terms.
Former Justice Department paralegal Tamarah Grimes saw misconduct in the Siegelman trial preparations first-hand and tried to protest, but ended up being fired by the Obama administration.
Other victims were Republicans from around Alabama and the nation involved in separate situations and marked for dubious prosecutions. They included Alabama bingo casino operator Milton McGregor, the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.
The Obama Rubber-Stamp
The Obama administration’s remarkable willingness to endorse these political prosecutions led to the findings of my new book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama Romney and Their Masters, which describes the hidden incentives for bipartisan cooperation in such courtroom misconduct, thereby hurting the public interest.
Sex scandal played an important behind-the-scenes role in a number of these cases, it has been amply demonstrated by my findings as well as by Shuler, among many others.
In the Siegelman case, for example, the lead prosecution witness was in effect threatened with years of homosexual rape in prison if he did not give prosecutors the bogus testimony they demanded in more than 70 interrogations. These pre-trial briefings were not revealed to the defense until after the trial, according to a CBS 60 Minutes exposé blacked out in northern Alabama upon its initial showing in February 2008. Siegelman is shown at left on the show.
The trial judge who made continual pro-prosecution rulings and otherwise allowing prosecution misconduct was having an affair with a court clerk who could have been an independent witness, it has been documented in court papers and news coverage.
The judge, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller in Montgomery, also secretly controlled a major defense company, Doss Aviation during a period when it received $300 million in Air Force tanker refueling contracts even as Fuller presided over Siegelman’s persecution by the Bush Justice Department. I broke that story in 2009 on the Huffington Post: Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge,’ Evidence Shows.
Please note again the scope of taxpayer funds funneled into a company privately and secretly controlled by a federal judge. These sums are fully documented, and were reported by Shuler and only a handful of others in the media. Fuller's right to the money has been rubber-stamped by authorities.
But when I mention the circumstances to other professionals (in my law school alumni gatherings, for example) I hear that no such a conflict could ever exist in the federal judiciary, especially in a contested case. They are wrong. They are living in The Matrix, and merely believe it is the real world.
One of the factors behind Siegelman's prosecution and current jailing was the possibility that insiders could reap advantage from a $34 billion Air Force contract for a factory in Alabama to build the next generation of Air Force refueling tankers. The contract was not precisely in the orbit of Fuller's company providing Air Force airplane refueling and Air Force pilot training, not construction. But deal-making was close enough so that it should have raised a concerns outside of blogger circles.
The rarely photographed Fuller is shown at right, courtesy of courthouse photographer Phil Fleming. Fleming later described to me how Fuller invited him and a sketch artist into chambers to create formal portraits minutes after the jury in the Siegelman case reached a verdict in 2006. Fleming is a journalist who spoke bluntly. He urged the judge to "cut the Cheshire Cat look" (by smiling so much) since it was, after all, a serious occasion.
Is Sex Scandal News?
My book describes in a general manner how political operatives use sex scandals to entrap, coerce or destroy officials for political ends. Because Shuler is being pilloried for exploring these topics the public should understand that these “honeypot” schemes are widespread across the country, not the product of a reporter's weird agenda. The schemes can have huge impact on public policy as politicians, contracting officials and even law enforcement personnel become involved and entrapped by those in the influence-peddling business.
Yet the Times story included nothing about the value Shuler has provided by his risk-taking writing, and which other organizations should be emulating. Shuler's consumer-oriented investigative blog has operated under the name Legal Schnauzer for six years.
True, Shuler’s style carries serious risks, as does the work of any investigative journalist seeking ambitious results with slender resources. He may be making horrible mistakes and causing needless harm.
But the full facts can only be determined at trial, according to long-established law that Alabama appears to be violating.
In this, it may be relevant that Alabama’s chief justice who appointed Nielsen, Shuler’s trial judge, was himself removed from the bench a decade ago for flouting U.S. Supreme Court precedent in the “Ten Commandments” statue he wanted to install on state grounds. Roy Moore returned to the bench, however, to impose justice his way, not the federal way.
That factoid is missing from most reports is a reminder that “the rule of law” that Shuler has been alleged to violate may been a highly subjective standard that quickly changes over time. As another illustration, Alabama courts jailed civil rights leaders like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on contempt of court charges for trying to fight racial bias.
For Shuler, Alabama’s scandalous court procedures may end his career with immediate and long-lasting financial and family ruin.
This would deter other independent journalists from similar work, for obvious reasons, as well as leave a horrific gap for those in the public who rely on the tiny few with enough talent and courage to fight corrupt judges and lawyers.
The Next Chapter
But the final chapter has not been written. In War of the Worlds, intruders from outer space conquered much of the world. But they neglected to protect themselves against near-invisible bacteria that killed the invaders.
In this instance, the pols, judges and lawyers neglected to consider that repellent actions against Shuler recreate for a new generation a modern version of Bull Connor police state of the 1960s. Connor, Birmingham's police chief, embodied a justice system whereby police dogs and firehoses were deployed against civil rights advocates. The scenes enabled by the national media brought unwarranted attention on the way of life that Alabama had fostered through its court system for decades.
Thus, even a flawed portrayed in the New York Times starts an overdue national review of not simply the Shuler case, but of the many other lingering abuses like the Siegelman frame-up that Shuler, among others, has long documented.
As for Shuler, the national and now worldwide coverage for his original allegation about Riley and Duke ensures that the contempt order is moot, except in its cruel and continued enforcement.
This court misconduct creates a legal issue because an injunction is not supposed to be a form of endless punishment, but instead a judicial tool to enforce fairness, (aka "equity") and prevent a specific harm.
If Shuler removes the columns from his website, as demand by the plaintiffs and the judge, it makes little difference. The story is already out in many places not subject to Roy Moore, Claud Neilsen and their kangaroo court system.
In real life, the media seldom lives up to its Hollywood image of fearlessness and courage. The Shuler jailing is not such occasion either, with scattered exceptions (cited below for the most part).
Nonetheless, Shuler's ordeal could be like the final scene of the 1952 movie Deadline USA.
In that scene at right, Humphrey Bogart portrays the crusading editor of a failing newspaper. A powerful businessman/gangster has just reached Bogart by phone in the composing room of the newspaper. The publishing machinery is about to start clattering to churn out the next day's edition with a front-page story that will expose the caller and his organization.
Knowing that Bogart's newspaper is so weak as to be on the verge of closing, the VIP caller forbids the editor from publishing -- and then, startled, demands to know, "What's that noise?"
"That's the press, baby. The press!" Bogart responds. "And there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing!"
New York Times Reporter's Response
Campbell Robertson, the New Orleans-based New York Times reporter who published the Jan. 12 Sunday feature on the case described above, responded to a request for comment as follows. With his permission, his comments via email were as follows:
Selected Justice Integrity Project Previous Coverage
Alabama Kangaroo Court Parades Liberal Commentator in Chains, Continues Indefinite Jailing, Nov. 15, 2013. Alabama authorities paraded a shackled liberal pundit into court, where he was denounced Nov. 14 for recent news coverage about his jailing.Are Media MIA In Blogger's Beating, Arrest? Andrew Kreig, Nov. 12, 2013. News coverage continued this week in erratic fashion regarding the Oct. 23 arrest and continued jailing of Alabama political commentator Roger Shuler, a longtime journalist and muckraking blogger. A few news outlets covered as an important story his ongoing jailing without bond on contempt of court charges.
Corruption-Fighting Reporter Arrested, Beaten, Jailed In Alabama As Deputies Seek Wife's Arrest, Oct. 25, 2013. The prominent investigative blogger Roger Shuler was arrested and beaten by Shelby County sheriff's deputies at his Alabama garage upon returning home Oct. 23. Roger Shuler Response to NY Times
Huffington Post, Why Is This Journalist In Jail? Conrad Black, left, Jan. 16, 2014. It might have been expected that Alabama would be the first jurisdiction in this hemisphere in many years to imprison a journalist. This is the lot of Roger Shuler, blogger under the title "Legal Schnauzer," which implies a self-image of a persistent, aggressive, little dog, with a loud bark. Shuler is accused of taking liberties with the truth, but his self-image seems to be fairly well accepted as exact. Shuler and his wife operate a left-wing blog from their home in Birmingham, Alabama, and although the New York Times has declared the Schnauzer's allegations "fuzzily sourced," the Shulers get high marks for fearless, if rather undiscriminating, assaults on their subjects. These are generally drawn from the infinitely target-rich environment of the Alabama right, which includes practically all the state's Republicans and most of its Democrats. Roger Shuler's blog grew from a fierce dispute with his neighbor, which spread in defamation actions to his neighbor's lawyer, who, as a result of the skirmishing, ended up as part owner of the Shulers' house. The whole affair also lifts the lid on the byzantine murkiness of Alabama political prosecutions and scandals, that have been the most notorious in the country for this sort of activity for the last 20 years or so. It is all shabby, tawdry, and distasteful (though entertaining in places), but so is much of Alabama public life, and so are vast areas of the U.S. justice system. It is not conceivable to me that the United States, even its most primitive states, is not yet ready for a real makeover of its ramshackle justice system.Reuters, Blogger gets same speech protections as traditional press: U.S. court, Dan Levine, Jan. 17, 2014. A blogger is entitled to the same free speech protections as a traditional journalist and cannot be liable for defamation unless she acted negligently, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday. Crystal Cox lost a defamation trial in 2011 over a blog post she wrote accusing a bankruptcy trustee and Obsidian Finance Group of tax fraud. A lower court judge had found that Obsidian did not have to prove that Cox acted negligently because Cox failed to submit evidence of her status as a journalist. But in the ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Cox deserved a new trial, regardless of the fact that she is not a traditional reporter. "As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable," 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Hurwitz wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.
Related News Coverage
Update: Legal Schnauzer, Documents in Legal Schnauzer Arrest Show That Warrant Was Not Signed, Carol Shuler, Feb. 18, 2014. An incident report in the arrest of Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler shows that the warrant in the case was not signed, apparently meaning there was no judicial authorization for the arrest. That comes on top of revelations that a prosecutor did not have a copy of the warrant and did not turn one over in Shuler's resisting arrest case. Both pieces of information point to the fact that there either was no warrant at all or no valid warrant that authorized Shuler's arrest.
Legal Schnauzer, New York Times Inaccurately Claims that Legal Schnauzer Plans to Bring Legal Charges Against Judge, Roger Shuler, Feb. 10, 2014. The New York Times in a recent article about the incarceration of Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler inaccurately claims that Shuler plans to bring federal criminal charges against the judge. From The New York Times article: "His wife spoke of collecting damages when this is over, but Mr. Shuler is thinking beyond civil remedies this time: He is planning to bring federal criminal charges against the judge." Shuler responded, "I have no means to bring criminal charges against anyone, and it baffles me how one of the world's foremost newspapers could make a statement that is so contrary to the facts."
Legal Schnauzer, Response to Inaccuracies in The New York Times Story On Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Roger Shuler, Feb. 4, 2014. An article covering the Legal Schnauzer first amendment case was written by reporter Campbell Robertson and published in the Sunday, Jan. 12 issue of The New York Times. As Shuler noted previously, he is pleased with the attention the New York Times has shined on the issue of terroristic threats against journalists and bloggers and those who support free speech, however, the article contains a number of glaring inaccuracies.
Legal Schnauzer, Legal Schnauzer Roger Shuler Beaten, Threatened by Sheriff Deputies With Prior History of Police Brutality, Carol Shuler, Jan. 29, 2014. A deputy who assisted in the arrest of Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler can be heard on video threatening to break the journalist's arms. The primary officer in the arrest has admitted under oath in court that he has a history of citizen complaints about police brutality and excessive force. What does this say about deputies Jason Valenti and Chris Blevins? It isn't pretty, to be sure. Blevins and Valenti can be seen on video dragging Shuler out of his garage and placing him face first on the concrete driveway. Shuler's arms clearly are behind his back, but Valenti is apparently not pleased about something. He can be heard telling Shuler that if he doesn't let his arms go loose, "I'm going to break them." At Shuler's recent resisting arrest trial, the journalist asked Blevins if he had ever been the subject of citizen complaints about police brutality and excessive force. Blevins answered yes, and when Shuler attempted to follow up on that questioning, District Judge Ron Jackson cut him off.
Legal Schnauzer, Does Legal Schnauzer's No-Warrant Arrest on Oct. 23 Essentially Amount to a State-Sanctioned Kidnapping? Carol Shuler, Jan. 23, 2014. Evidence presented in open court last week shows that Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler was arrested without a warrant. That means Deputy Chris Blevins had no lawful authority to make the arrest, and it raises this troubling question: Is Shuler the victim of a state-sanctioned kidnapping? From his current location in the Shelby County Jail, Shuler is not able to fully research the legal issues involved. But he says his arrest clearly required a warrant; the charge was civil contempt, and it was not a case of an officer witnessing misconduct and being able to make a warrantless arrest. At Shuler's resisting arrest trial last week, District Judge Ron Jackson ordered Prosecutor Tonya Willingham to produce any warrants associated with the arrest. Willingham replied as follows, "Your honor, we have no warrants."
Legal Schnauzer, Process Server May Have Violated Jail Policy and State Law By Serving Court Papers on Roger Shuler, Roger Shuler, Jan. 20, 2014. A process server might have violated jail policy and state law by serving court papers last week at the Shelby County Jail on Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler. The guard called Shuler to the visitation area of the jail at about 3:15 p.m. last Friday for what was billed as a "attorney visit." Shuler arrived to be met by a Ms. Berger of Magic City Investigations who served him with papers in a lawsuit filed by Luther Strange campaign aide Jessica Medeiros Garrison. At a hearing earlier that day, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Don Blankenship seemed to agree with Shuler that service in the Garrison case had been done unlawfully. Garrison lawyer Bill Baxley must have picked up on that because he apparently dispatched Berger to the Shelby County Jail in an attempt to serve Shuler again. It's not clear, however, that Berger acted lawfully on the second try. "In my research of the Shelby County Jail handbook, I could find no provision for a process server to visit an inmate here," Shuler said. "Visits appear to be limited to family and friends (on weekends), attorneys, and members of the clergy. Berger does not fit into any of those categories, so it's hard to see how she was allowed into the jail to visit me and serve papers. I have filed a grievance with the jail seeking all documentation regarding her visit. If she stated on the sign-in sheet that she is lawyer when she isn't that could violate Alabama law. A number of statutes in the code of Alabama relate to false statements to law enforcement departments and officials. It's unclear at this point that Berger violated any of those statutes, but it's a worthwhile question to ask and one that I intend to pursue."Birmingham News / AL.om, Shelby County blogger sentenced to 90 days for resisting arrest, remains in jail without bond on contempt charges, Kelsey Stein, Jan. 15, 2014. Blogger Roger Shuler was arrested for contempt of court and resisting arrest after he violated a court order, but some legal experts say the order was unconstitutional. A Shelby County blogger remains in jail after a judge found him guilty of resisting arrest.
Legal Schnauzer, Roger Shuler Convicted of Resisting Arrest Despite Police Brutality and No Evidence of Arrest Warrant, Carol Shuler, Jan. 15, 2014. Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler was convicted yesterday of resisting arrest in a trial where the prosecution failed to produce any evidence of an arrest warrant. District Judge Ron Jackson made the guilty finding in a misdemeanor bench trial and issued a 90-day suspended sentence. During the discovery phase of the trial, Shuler requested copies of any arrest warrants in the case and related documents. The prosecution produced three documents none of which appeared to be an arrest warrant. When Shuler pressed Jackson on the issue, the judge admitted that the prosecution had produced no warrants. "Evidence in the trial shows I was arrested without a warrant," Shuler said. "It's either that or the prosecution withheld evidence. Either way it points to grave misconduct by either deputies, prosecutors, or both. It also points to the fact that my arrest and incarceration have been unlawful, grossly so, from the very get go. How can Judge Jackson find that I was guilty of resisting arrest when there was no evidence of an arrest warrant at all? Well that's just another chapter in the story of grotesque corruption in Shelby County courts. Yesterday's trial produced much more shocking evidence and we'll be discussing those in upcoming posts."Legal Schnauzer, Evidence Reveals Roger Shuler Was Victim of Gross Police Brutality, But No Evidence of Arrest Warrant, Jan. 16, 2014. An Alabama deputy shoved Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler to a concrete floor three times and maced him before ever stating that he was inside the Shuler's home to make an arrest. That was one of several stunning revelations during Shuler's resisting arrest trial in Shelby County Tuesday. Much of the evidence was produced by a stream from a video that was generated by a camera in the vehicle of Deputy Chris Blevins. "In the audio, you can hear Deputy Blevins assaulting me three times and spraying me with mace before he ever said that he was on the premises to conduct an arrest," Shuler said. "The evidence showed that I was defending myself with the only physical act that I did according to Blevins' own words was raising my arms in a defensive posture, and I was defending myself against a grotesque example of police brutality and excessive force. Evidence showed that Blevins likely had no warrant given that the prosecution could produce no warrant at the trial. The notion that a journalist or any other citizen could be arrested and beaten up in their own home without a warrant should be a cause of great concern for all citizens." Assistant District Attorney Tonya Willingham prosecuted the case and when forced to turn over copies of any warrants she said she did not have one. How can a resisting arrest case be prosecuted when there are no warrants in evidence? That's one of many disturbing questions raised by Tuesday's trial.
Legal Schnauzer, New York Times Covers Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Carol Shuler, Jan. 13, 2014. Multiple legal experts said Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler is the victim of unconstitutional actions by an Alabama judge in an article published yesterday in the New York Times. The article, reporter Campbell Robertson, appeared on page A14 of the Sunday, Jan. 12 issue of the nation's most prestigious newspaper. The article came after an almost three hour interview with Carol Shuler and an hour's worth of four separate interviews with Roger Shuler via telephone from the Shelby County Jail, where he has been incarcerated since Oct. 23 due to a lawsuit filed by Republican political figure Rob Riley. The Shelby County courthouse is shown at right.PBC News and Comment, NY Times Covers Roger Shuler’s Illegal Detention, Peter B. Collins, left, Jan. 13, 2014. NY Times finally runs a story on Roger Shuler, journalist detained in Alabama behind unconstitutional rulings, proceedings, with some key omissions. We break the story down, noting major omissions, and compliment Salon’s Natasha Lennard for deleting a comment about Shuler at my request.
Salon.com, Jailing of an Alabama blogger: It’s worse than we thought, Natasha Lennard, Jan. 14, 2014. A New York Times report on the imprisonment of a journalist may have underplayed how chilling the case is. On Monday I highlighted the case of Roger Shuler, an Alabama blogger currently under indefinite detention in a state prison after refusing to remove items from his blog in adherence to an injunction ruling. His detention is a striking abrogation of First Amendment protections. Shuler’s is the only name listed from the Western Hemisphere in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ list of imprisoned news workers around the world. While the presence of a U.S. blogger in a U.S. prison because of his work is troubling enough from a constitutional standpoint, there is even more to Shuler’s story than was first suggested in early reports. A New York Times report on Shuler may have underplayed some chilling factors relating to the blogger’s situation. The Times story gave the strong impression that Shuler has regularly engaged in salacious and defamatory writing about Alabama lawmakers and policymakers. Carol Shuler, Roger’s wife, spoke to Salon and claimed this was an erroneous characterization. She noted that her husband had never been sued for defamation until two suits were filed against him at the same time.Salon, Jailed in the U.S. for blogging: Whither the First Amendment? Natasha Lennard, Jan. 13, 2014. Roger Shuler is a controversial writer who often crosses the line. His indefinite detention is chilling,
Liberaland, Jailed Blogger Roger Shuler Makes The New York Times, dave-dr-gonzo, Jan. 14, 2014. It only took the “newspaper of record” over two months to report that muckraking, controversial Legal Schnauzer blogger Roger Shuler has been thrown in jail in a move that is, to say the least, legally questionable.
Alabama Political Reporter, Attorney General’s Former Campaign Manager Sues Blogger Over Accusations of Extramarital Affair, Bill Britt, Aug. 30, 2013. The former campaign manager for Attorney General Luther Strange has filed a defamation of character suit against blogger, Roger Shuler. The civil action filed by Jessica Medeiros Garrison against Shuler, whose blog is called Legal Schnauzer, was recorded in Jefferson County Circuit Court on August 27, 2013. The case contends that Shuler published, “defamatory, malicious and intentionally tortious posts about Garrison on his website. But, it is not just Shuler that the case is filed against. It also includes, “those persons, firms or corporations unknown to Plaintiff that acted in concert with Defendant Roger A. Shuler to fund, foment, direct or, jointly with him, publish the defamatory, malicious and intentionally tortious posts.” This is a wide net cast to ensnare anyone who may be helping Shuler in any way. This may also extend to the anonymous posters on Shuler’s website.
Legal Schnauzer Coverage
Legal Schnauzer, Rob Riley Had An Affair With Lobbyist Liberty Duke, Leading to Pregnancy And Payments For Abortion, July 2, 2013. A prominent Alabama Republican had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist that led to a pregnancy and payments for the woman to have an abortion. Homewood attorney Rob Riley, the son of former GOP governor Bob Riley (2002-2010) had an affair with Liberty Duke, a lobbyist based in Clanton, Alabama. When Ms. Duke became pregnant, Republican insiders paid her to have an abortion and stay quiet on the subject, multiple sources tell Legal Schnauzer. Total payments reportedly were in the $250,000 to $300,000 range. Who was involved in the payment of hush money to cover up Rob Riley's transgressions? Our sources are not certain about the financial flow chart, but it appears the funds came from Alabama GOP sources rather than coming directly from Riley. This raises a number of prickly ethical questions for a party that has consistently framed itself as "pro life" and "pro family" and against abortion rights. Liberty Duke did not respond to a voice message seeking comment. In a series of telephone interviews with Legal Schnauzer, Riley admitted knowing Liberty Duke, but denied having an affair with her. During our conversations, Riley angrily hung up on me multiple times.
Legal Schnauzer, Legal Schnauzer Discusses his First Amendment Case from Jail and the Bizarre Nov. 14 Court Hearing, Nov. 18, 2013. On Friday, we provided a brief update on the Nov. 14 hearing on "permanent injunctions" in the Legal Schnauzer first amendment case. And not surprisingly, it was indeed a kangaroo court, though possibly even worse than we had anticipated. We reported that Shelby County Courthouse officials turned away the majority of the people who attempted to appear at the mysterious and strange proceedings by claiming it was closed to the public. However, some supporters were able to gain access to the previously undisclosed location. I was not present at this hearing, but I did interview Roger Shuler by phone who revealed some alarming details. Some key highlights are as follows:
1. Roger Shuler--shackled at the ankles, waist and wrist--was led by four sheriff deputies from the jail to the courthouse. Once in the courtroom, he remained shackled throughout the duration of the hearing even when speaking and attempting to question the opposing counsel who was under oath.
2. The court and the other side were livid about the widespread media coverage of their unconstitutional courtroom circus and shenanigans. Apparently, they believe they have total control of the press all over the entire world and not just here at Legal Schnauzer. They should be free to break the law with reckless abandon and trample the U.S. Constitution without shame and all global media outlets should simply turn a blind eye to their misdeeds.
3. The court and the other side blamed me, Mrs. Schnauzer, for the media coverage and threatened me with arrest.
4. Roger Shuler told the court he had no way to remove anything from the blog while still in jail in order to comply with their unconstitutional injunction. The court simply said that was his problem and in essence that he would be in jail indefinitely.
5. The court and the other side threatened us with monetary sanctions.
6. The other side never requested a struck jury upon the filing of the underlying alleged "defamation" case. This means it is a bench trial and the final outcome will be decided by the judge only.
7. The other side filed a motion to remove the seal on the underlying alleged "defamation" case.
Legal Schnauzer, PayPal Donations Help Support the Fight for Justice in the Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Carol Shuler, Nov. 20, 2013. Since Roger's brutal beating and unlawful arrest on Oct 23, we have been humbled by the large number of people who wanted to help us and who've offered to lend their support in a variety of ways in our ongoing fight for justice. Many of those kind individuals have chosen to support this fight by way of the Legal Schnauzer PayPal donation button, which can be found in the upper right-hand corner of the blog.
Legal Schnauzer, Nov. 14 Court Hearing in Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case Results in "Final Order," Carol Shuler, Nov. 19, 2013. The Nov. 14 "Permanent Injunction" hearing in the Legal Schnauzer first amendment case was carried out under murky circumstances and held at a secretive location which served to keep it from the disapproving eyes of a concerned public. However the telephone interview with Roger Shuler filled in many details of what transpired during this kangaroo court proceeding. This bizarre hearing subsequently resulted in a "Final Order" that we received in the U.S. mail sometime over the weekend. Ironically, this "Final Order" proves that we could not have possibly been expected to be in attendance at the Petitions for Preliminary Injunctions as the hearing itself was also held on September 29, 2013. This was the exact same day as the bogus traffic stop where Officer DeHart testified under oath that our unlawful so-called service of the civil suit took place. The "final order" also grants the Petitioners exorbitant attorney's fees in the amounts of $24,425 for Riley and $9,450 for Duke. Pretty steep attorney's fees for a case that only lasted a grand total of six weeks!
Legal Schnauzer, Media Coverage of Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case Gains Traction with HuffPost Live! Interview, Carol Shuler, Nov. 12, 2013. The media coverage of Roger Shuler's beating and unlawful arrest on Oct. 23 gained some major traction recently with an insightful video interview with Alyona Minkovski, of HuffPost Live! The host of the daily Freedom Watch Zone broadcast of the Huffington Post interviewed me and Andrew Kreig of the Justice Integrity Project of Washington, D.C. Minkovski asked why the media had not provided more coverage to such a remarkable attack on the free press. Kreig emphasized that the state of Alabama's "kangaroo" court proceedings and bizarre actions grossly violate well-established national constitutional law both on free speech and freedom of the press, as well as, the rights to due process that any litigant deserves in court. Kreig further noted that many mainstream media organizations face daunting financial pressures and have reduced staff as a result. The remaining employees are fearful of controversy and the risk of possible job loss and thus are typically very reluctant to report in any aggressive or adverse way on public officials and their wrongdoings. Also in the interview with Minkovski, I had the opportunity to describe exactly what happened to Roger on the evening of Oct. 23 when he was assaulted by four Shelby County sheriff's deputies in our garage and badly beaten and unlawfully arrested. At no time, was he ever told by any of these deputies that he was under arrest, being charged with anything, shown or even told about a warrant of any kind nor ever read his rights! He was merely attacked inside the four walls of our home, beaten up and abducted into the night.Legal Schnauzer, Bizarre Nov. 14 Hearing on "Permanent Injunctions" in Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Carol Shuler, Nov. 15, 2013. Here is a brief update regarding the Nov. 14 hearing on "permanent injunctions."
Committee to Protect Journalists, Second worst year on record for jailed journalists, Elana Beiser, Dec. 18, 2013. For the second consecutive year, Turkey was the world’s leading jailer of journalists, followed closely by Iran and China. The number of journalists in prison globally decreased from a year earlier but remains close to historical highs. Turkey, Iran, and China accounted for more than half of all journalists imprisoned around the world in 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. In its annual census, CPJ identified 211 journalists jailed for their work, the second worst year on record after 2012, when 232 journalists were behind bars. The single journalist behind bars in the Americas was in the United States. Roger Shuler, right, an independent blogger specializing in allegations of corruption and scandal in Republican circles in Alabama, was being held on contempt of court for refusing to comply with an injunction regarding content ruled defamatory.
Columbia Journalism Review,The 2nd-worst year for jailed journalists, CPJ’s annual census of imprisoned journalists makes sober reading, Edirin Oputu, Dec. 18, 2013. Two hundred and eleven journalists are in jail around the world, the second-worst year on record since the Committee to Protect Journalists began its annual census in 1990.
Think Progress, Ten Travesties Of Justice In 2013, Nicole Flatow, Dec. 23, 2013. Every year, stories emerge that serve as a reminder that the American system of justice means injustice for too many, with some receiving little or no punishment for egregious offenses, while others receive harsh or faulty punishment for much less.
OpEdNews, Holiday Greeting From Prison, Don Siegelman, Dec. 23, 2013. My Dear Friends, This has been my third Holiday Season in federal prison. If the Creator set a purpose for everything, then I know my job: To fight for justice! He has given me a personal, hands-on view of the tragedies created by our criminal justice system. It is not balanced or fair. It is not seeking truth or justice. Our system pursues convictions with an "anything goes" attitude! The President and the Attorney General have spoken out, allowing changes for some...so let's encourage them to be even bolder, to seek justice for all...Oh, yes we can! We cannot give up on true justice.
OpEd News, Let Roger Shuler Go Before Christmas -- The Only Journalist Held Indefinitely In The US, Jill Simpson and Jim March, Dec. 23, 2013. The Committee to Protect Journalists who are defending journalists worldwide recently announced their 2013 list of reporters imprisoned illegally around the world. As to be expected Turkey, Iran and China were at the top of the list but shamefully this time the USofA made the list as well due to the jailing of an Internet blogger named Roger Shuler in the state of Alabama.
Popehat, Update On Prior Restraint of Alabama Blogger Roger Shuler, Ken White, Nov. 13, 2013. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Roger Shuler, an Alabama blogger. There are two significant developments in the case: one good, one bad. The Good: Mrs. Shuler reports that the ACLU has sought leave to file an amicus brief questioning the preliminary injunction, and has submitted a proposed brief. The ACLU's point is a good one: the fact that Shuler is saying nasty and potentially defamatory things is not an "extraordinary circumstance" justifying the Alabama court's decision to disregard the imposing wall of precedent against prior restraint. It's not an extraordinary circumstance, in part, because the marketplace of ideas provides pre-trial remedies.WIAT-TV Birmingham (CBS 42 News), Jailed Blogger in Court, Mike McClanahan, Nov. 12, 2013. Tuesday morning Roger Shuler appeared in Shelby County District Court to answer a charge of resisting arresting. During his court appearance, Judge Ronald Jackson asked if Shuler had an attorney. Shuler replied no. The judge then asked if Shuler wanted the court to appoint an attorney for him. Shuler again replied no. After the hearing he was taken back to the Shelby County Jail where he’s been held since his arrest on Oct. 23th, almost three weeks ago. The warrant on file in court records for Shuler’s District Court case shows charges of contempt of court and resisting arrest. The contempt charge reportedly refers to Shuler's refusal to take down allegedly defamatory posts about Rob Riley and a lobbyist from Shuler's website Legal Schnauzer. Documents relating to defamation claims, an injunction and TRO, and motion/order to file all case documents under seal are posted on the site, but not accessible through public court record databases. Shuler's wife claims there has been no final judgment on the accuracy of the posts and that her husband hasn’t had his day in court."...Mr. Shuler, 57, was arrested in late October on a contempt charge in connection with a defamation lawsuit filed by the son of a former governor. The circumstances surrounding that arrest, including a judge's order that many legal experts described as unconstitutional..."
New Orleans Times-Picayune / NOLO.com, N.Y. Times assigns full-time reporter to New Orleans, Gordon Russell, Aug. 3, 2009. Making good on a promise to keep a national focus on New Orleans' halting recovery, the New York Times has named a full-time correspondent who will be stationed in the city, staffing a post that had been vacant since April. Campbell Robertson, a native of Montevallo, Ala., will fill the job held most recently by Adam Nossiter, who left to supervise the newspaper's coverage of West Africa. Robertson had been stationed in recent months in Iraq, though he spent some time in New Orleans immediately after Katrina. He will arrive in New Orleans this month. The announcement by the nation's most prestigious newspaper seems to signal that the narrative of New Orleans' laborious effort to rebuild itself from the ruin wrought by Katrina remains a story of national interest four years after the storm.Legal Schnauzer, Roger Shuler, Only Jailed U.S. Journalist Per CPJ Census, Carol Shuler, Dec. 30, 2013. Receives Coverage at Al Jazeera America. As reported here in recent days, Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler made the list of jailed journalists compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Per the CPJ's article, "CPJ’s list is a snapshot of those incarcerated at 12:01 a.m. on December 1, 2013. It does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year; accounts of those cases can be found at www.cpj.org. Journalists remain on CPJ’s list until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody." In a census that is normally about jailed journalists in oppressive countries such as Turkey, Iran and China, Shuler is the only journalist unlawfully jailed in the Americas on a list of 211 journalists from around the globe.
GulfCoastNewsToday.com (Robertsdale, AL), Bah, humbug! I say to Alabama politics, Bob Morgan, Dec. 24, 2013. It’s kind of hard to get into the Christmas spirit. I’m trying but I see a lot that’s bogus in this “Peace on earth, good will to men” thing. Case in point: Alabama political blogger Roger Shuler, who landed on the wrong square. Shuler’s in jail in Shelby County right now for alleging that a trio of Alabama power brokers — Rob Riley, son of former Gov. Bob Riley, Atty. Gen. Luther Strange and federal judge Bill Pryor, all notable “family values” types — have been involved in certain indiscretions that don’t exactly spell out “f-a-m-i-l-y-v-a-l-u-e-s.” Personally, I don’t know if Shuler is on target with his allegations or not, but several things about Shuler’s jailing make me say, “Bah, humbug!”Legal Schnauzer, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Writes Letter to Court in Support of Legal Schnauzer, Carol Shuler, Nov. 7, 2013. This is Carol, Roger's wife. So many organizations have stepped forward to lend their support to Legal Schnauzer's ongoing fight for justice against this travesty against our constitutional rights and civil liberties.
Legal Schnauzer, American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama Intervenes in Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Carol Shuler, Nov. 5, 2013. We have been heartened by the loud outcry of concerned citizens all over the world regarding Roger Shuler's brutal beating and unlawful arrest on Oct. 23. People everywhere, including scores of media outlets, have stepped forward to help shine a spotlight on this outrageous display of police brutality, as well as, suppression of free speech and freedom of the press. Our civil liberties are under assault and people are saying, "Enough!" Thanks to this outpouring of effort by so many, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama has graciously agreed to step in and lend their assistance by filing motions in Roger's case. These motions were filed on Nov. 1.Business Insider, Alabama Blogger May Be The Only Person Jailed For Journalism In The Western Hemisphere, Pamela Engel, Jan. 13, 2014. An Alabama blogger who's been jailed indefinitely after writing salacious posts about local Republican politicians is the only person in the Western Hemisphere on a prominent list of imprisoned journalists, The New York Times reports.
Al.com, We must dare to defend Roger Shuler's rights, too, Mike Marshall, Nov. 8, 2013. Mike Marshall is director of statewide commentary the Alabama Media Group. Roger Shuler might be a wingnut conspiracy theorist and a crackpot. He might unfairly besmirch conservative Alabama politicians with little or no evidence to back up outlandish accusations. But he is certainly an American. As such, he certainly has a constitutional right to free speech, and that right certainly has been trampled by a judge in an Alabama circuit court. It is hard to feel sorry for Shuler: Earlier this year, he began writing about Rob Riley on his political blog Legal Schnauzer, accusing the attorney of scandalous behavior in his personal life. Riley, son of former Gov. Bob Riley, sued Shuler, asking a Shelby County judge for an injunction to stop Shuler from making such attacks. Shuler failed to show up for the hearing, then ignored a judge's order to make a court appearance. He even threw the court's papers out of his car window as he cursed the officers who were trying to serve them. But Judge Neilson violated Shuler's right to free speech when he ordered him not to publish anything further about Riley. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that you cannot muzzle an American citizen; you cannot prohibit libels anticipated in the future, an excess known as "prior restraint."
Breitbart Unmasked, Why Is Team Akbar So Invested In Believing That Roger Shuler Comments Here? Xenophon, Nov. 4, 2013. After the arrest of Alabama blogger Roger Shuler on October 23, right wing blog speculation over the identity of RogerS, who leaves comments here from time to time, reached fever pitch. Robert Stacy McCain, Aaron Walker, John Patrick Frey, Kimberlin Unmasked, and even Ken White all weighed in with excitement bordering on bloodlust. In fact, one might even be tempted to think that all their blogging about Shuler’s arrest was driven by an intense desire to link Mr. Shuler with this website, as if they thought such a link would magically absolve Team Akbar of defamation.
HuffPost Live! Roger Shuler: Journalist Beaten & Arrested, Interview of Carol Shuler and Andrew Kreig by Freedom Watch Zone host Alyona Minkovski, Nov. 1, 2013. Alyona looks at the week in political activism, including the story of an investigative journalist who was beaten & arrested by police for his writing, Anonymous' Million Mask March & more! The prominent investigative blogger Roger Shuler was arrested and beaten by Shelby County sheriff's deputies in his Alabama garage upon returning home the evening of Oct. 23.Liberland, We Address Why Roger Shuler Was Allegedly Beaten And Then Arrested And Jailed, Alan Colmes, Nov. 1, 2013. Roger Shuler is a journalist who worked for a daily newspaper for years and most recently has been blogging at legalschnauzer. He was recently jailed and not given a trial date or any other indication that he’ll be released any time soon. Journalist Andrew Kreig spoke to me on radio Thursday night about the case.
Shelby County Reporter, ‘Legal Schnauzer’ blogger arrested for contempt of court, resisting arrest, Cassandra Mickens, Oct. 29, 2013. A blogger who aired an alleged extramarital affair involving the son of former Gov. Bob Riley is being held in the Shelby County Jail after an Oct. 23 arrest. Roger Alan Shuler, chief writer of the blog Legal Schnauzer, is charged with two counts of contempt of court and one count of resisting arrest. Shuler’s bond is $1,000 for the resisting arrest charge. No bond was set for the two contempt of court charges.
Washington Post, Is it bribery or just politics? George F. Will, Feb. 12, 2012. All elected officials, and those who help finance elections in the expectation that certain promises will be kept — and everyone who cares about the rule of law — should hope the Supreme Court agrees to hear Don Siegelman’s appeal of his conviction. Until the court clarifies what constitutes quid pro quo political corruption, Americans engage in politics at their peril because prosecutors have dangerous discretion to criminalize politics....In 2009, a bipartisan amicus brief by 91 former state attorneys general urged the Supreme Court to use Siegelman’s case to enunciate a clear standard for establishing quid pro quo bribery. Today’s confusion and the resulting prosecutorial discretion chill the exercise of constitutional rights of political participation and can imprison people unjustly.Legal Schnauzer, Improper Actions Of Prosecutor And District Judge Are Focus Of New Appeal In Don Siegelman Case, Roger Shuler, Aug. 26, 2013. There is something fundamentally wrong with our judiciary when this nation can readily justify sending men and women into war zones claiming for reasons to provide others their freedoms and rights, yet here, especially within our own state that many have been, are consciously being denied those same freedoms and rights. At left, former Gov. Don Siegelman, center, is with his children Joseph and Dana.
Huffington Post, Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows, Andrew Kreig, May 15, 2009. 300 Million in Bush Military Contracts Awarded to Judge’s Private Company. The Alabama federal judge who presided over the 2006 corruption trial of the state's former governor holds a grudge against the defendant for helping to expose the judge's own alleged corruption six years ago. Former Gov. Don Siegelman therefore deserves a new trial with an unbiased judge ─ not one whose privately owned company, Doss Aviation, has been enriched by the Bush administration's award of $300 million in contracts since 2006, making the judge millions in non-judicial income.
Selected Other Alabama Prosecutions & Litigation
Associated Press via Al.com, Selma's once thriving Chestnut, Sanders and Sanders law firm much smaller and splintered, Phillip Rawls, Dec. 15, 2013. Hank Sanders is the only remaining partner in the firm that was once one of the most prominent African American law firms in the South. One of the South's prominent African-American law firms has disintegrated in a fight over money after helping black farmers nationwide win $1.2 billion in a discrimination case. The Chestnut, Sanders and Sanders law firm in Selma once had nearly 40 employees and handled high-profile cases ranging from defending capital murder defendants to pursuing civil rights complaints. In recent years, it has shrunk dramatically and struggled with financial problems. Now, the family of the late J.L. Chestnut Jr. is fighting his former partners, state Sen. Hank Sanders and his wife, Faya Rose Sanders, over how to divide a $5.2 million fee that arose from the black farmers' discrimination case. An attorney for the Chestnut family, retired Circuit Judge Claud Neilson, said the family deserves a significant share because Chestnut was a major figure in the farmers' case from the start and was "a very well-known and respected lawyer" who helped the firm generate income. The firm was best known for the black farmers' case. It began with a lawsuit in 1997 with black farmers alleging discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Several law firms were involved, but Chestnut was one of the faces of the case, testifying to Congress and speaking across the country to alert black farmers. The farmers originally got $100,000. Then a second round of litigation produced $1.15 billion, bringing the total to $1.25 billion. "When the black farmers' case began, we were the largest black law firm in the state. We were once one of the 10 largest black law firms in the country. We had nearly 40 employees. The first black farmers' case broke our firm financially, numerically and otherwise. Now, I am the only partner in the firm," Hank Sanders said in a statement.
Florence Times-Daily (Alabama), Millions lost in Alabama gambling trial, Mike Goens, March 11, 2012. Did the guilty get away with it or did another political witch hunt blow up in the faces of those with an agenda? Either way, between $35 million and $40 million of our tax dollars walked out the door Wednesday with the remaining six defendants in a federal gambling corruption trial. All six, as well as fellow defendants who were acquitted in 2011 during the first trial, were found not guilty Wednesday. By the way, some estimate as much as $50 million was spent on investigating and prosecuting the defendants, which included a casino owner, former and current state legislators, lobbyists and others. In trying to answer the question posed above, it seems logical this case is another example of a political witch hunt gone bad....You know, $35 million could pay for a nice prison in a state so financially strapped that many convicts will likely be released early because it cannot afford to house them. Imagine that, building a new prison for real criminals instead of wasting money on a political agenda. Don’t underestimate the financial losses and attacks on personal reputations that defendants suffered in this case. The government doesn’t have to worry about those individuals. Prosecutors can go on to the next case without any financial obligation. It’s unfair at best.Justice Integrity Project, Alabama Gambling Leader Claims DOJ Misconduct; Top Prosecutor Quits, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 20, 2012. Facing retrial Jan. 30 on federal corruption charges, Alabama’s top promoter of legalized gambling alleges that the elite Justice Department unit prosecuting him illegally suppressed evidence during his first trial last summer. Meanwhile, that unit’s deputy chief suddenly resigned this month. Victoryland bingo parlor owner Milton McGregor’s willingness to hit back hard at federal prosecutors in this week’s filing could presage even more explosive allegations. Also, the sudden resignation of DOJ’s Public Integrity Section Deputy Chief Justin Shur shortly before his scheduled leadership of the McGregor retrial heightens confusion, at best, within DOJ’s anti-corruption unit. Known by the acronym “PIN,” it is led by Chief John "Jack" Smith.