Justice Integrity Project
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, fifth from the left, presents President Lyndon Johnson the Warren Commission's report on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Smiling at second to the left is General Counsel Lee Rankin. Third from the right is former CIA Director Allen Dulles, forced out by Kennedy in late November, 1961.
Forty-four prominent authors, medical doctors, academics, lawyers and other research experts will convene from Sept. 26 to 28 to reveal recent findings undercutting the Warren Commission’s 1964 report ascribing President Kennedy’s murder to a sole assassin.
On the unique, historic occasion of the Warren report’s 50th anniversary, experts and surviving witnesses will examine evidence showing the commission was wrong about its core finding, that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president with three shots from behind. Polls for decades have shown that most Americans – sometimes well over 70 percent – disbelieve the commission, which was chaired by the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.
“Because of new revelations few serious scholars any longer believe the Warren Report’s core finding on Oswald as a lone killer acting alone,” said Assassinations Archives and Record Center (AARC) President James Lesar. His non-profit group has organized what he calls, “one of the most important JFK assassination conferences in history.”
The three-day conference, “The Warren Report and the JFK Assassination: A Half Century of Significant Disclosures," will be at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, MD. It begins Sept. 26, with an evening reception Sept. 25. Find registration and hotel details at: www.aarclibrary.org.
Among those making unprecedented or rare speaking appearances will be: Alpha 66 founder Antonio Veciana, leader of the CIA-backed Cuban exile group that tried to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro; and Prof. Ernst Titovets, who was Oswald’s best friend in the Soviet Union.
Justice Integrity Project readers know that the mysteries still surrounding the murder prompted us to begin publishing here last year a multi-part "Readers Guide" to JFK books, videos, archives and events. One segment alone has received more than 50,000 hits.
That work has continued. At the conference, I shall describe why the nation's unfinished JFK investigation casts a devastating but largely hidden blight over entire range of United States policy, most directly at the White House, law enforcement, other court oversight and the media.
Other speakers include:
Prof. Robert Blakey, Ed Lopez and Dan Hardway of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which concluded in 1979 that JFK fell victim to a conspiracy by unspecified parties.
Among others are: Dr. Gary Aguilar, Russ Baker, Brenda Brody, Rex Bradford, Jim DiEugenio, Eric Hamburg, Dr. Peter Kornbluh, Robert Groden, Prof. Joan Mellen, Jefferson Morley, Prof. John Newman, Jerry Policoff, Dr. Randolph Robertson, Prof. Peter Dale Scott, Dr. Wayne Smith, Pat Speer, Anthony Summers, David Talbot, Dr. Donald Thomas, Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, Lamar Waldron, and Dr. David Wrone.
A Colorado-based legal reform group provides an effective model for other groups nationally.
A Just Cause began by advocating for six software engineers serving long prison terms for disputed convictions on corruption charges.
Friends and family of the defendants volunteered to form the group in 2005. Its relentless and by-now polished campaign includes a radio show, frequent visits to government leaders in Washington – and a decision last week by the U.S. Supreme Court to explore the possibility of considering the defendants’ petition.
I become impressed with the leaders and their cause by meeting them in the nation’s capital this summer, reading their materials and being hosted on their radio show Sept. 2.
The hosts were Sam Thurman (the group’s president), Cliff Stewart and his wife Lisa Stewart, assisted by commentator Lamont Banks. We exchanged ideas on the crisis in law enforcement and corrections. Part of that is to identify local instances of injustice and undertake effective reform.
I described why their “IPR6” prosecution seemed suspicious and why others with similar grievances could learn from their methods, even though the path to justice for aggrieved litigants can be ruinously expensive and oft-discouraging.
Let’s start with the group’s overall goals and review its Colorado origins:
A Just Cause says:
It is our vision to change the trend in the United States justice system of over-criminalizing conduct by citizens who committed certain acts with no criminal intent. A Just Cause seeks true balance and accountability in the judicial process, ensuring that innocent men and women are not convicted and sentenced to prison for trivial/obscure acts that are otherwise not seen as crimes
Alabama’s leading news organization has called for a scandal-plagued federal judge to resign after his arrest in Atlanta.
Al.com, a consortium of three newspapers that boasts of the largest readership in the state, published an editorial Aug. 22 saying U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, 55, should resign his lifetime appointment following his arrest on a battery charge against his wife, Kelli Gregg Fuller. She told police she had accused her husband of an affair with a court staffer under his supervision at the courthouse in Alabama's state capital of Montgomery.
"It's all too tawdry," Al.com's editorial stated. "Fuller's actions show his ability to make good decisions is impaired."
The wealthy judge, released on a $5,000 bond for a Fulton County court appearance Sept. 5, has gone into rehabilitation treatment and has hired top lawyers – including Jeffrey Brickman, a former prosecutor in Atlanta. Treatment sometimes persuades judges to vacate charges.
Update 1: On Aug. 26, the Montgomery Advertiser became the fourth newspaper in Alabama's four largest cities to call for Fuller's resignation: U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller should resign. Also, an attorney for Fuller counter-attacked Alabama attorney Donald Watkins for calling for the judge's resignation, saying the lawyer was biased. Details: Bimingham attorney Donald Watkins tells U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice that federal judge Mark Fuller should be removed from bench.
Update 2: On Sept. 5, Fuller agreed to a pretrial diversion program in which the charge would be expunged. "I reached this difficult decision after consulting with my family, and deciding that it was in everyone's best interests to put this incident behind us," Fuller said in a statement. "While I regret that my decision means that the full and complete facts regarding this incident will likely not come out, I have no doubt that it is what is best for all involved."
"This incident has been very embarrassing to me, my family, friends and the court," Fuller's statement said. "I deeply regret this incident and look forward to working to resolve these difficulties with my family, where they should be resolved." Fuller said in his statement he hoped to "address the concerns of the Court" and hopefully return to "full, active" status.
Meanwhile, the federal appeals court overseeing judges in a three-state region has transferred all of Fuller's cases to other judges and launched a disciplinary investigation of the once powerful judge who from 2004 to 2011 presided as chief judge in Alabama's federal middle district.
A report Aug. 26 said all of Fuller's top colleagues have been summoned to Atlanta for three days of discussions about his fate. The acting chief of the federal appeals court failed to respond to our request for verification or comment. Later reports, based on sources claimed that the judges asked Fuller to resign but that he refused to do so.
Women’s rights and other civil rights advocates at one point hoped to generate a mass protest against Fuller. His first wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, accused him in 2012 divorce papers of wife-beating and adultery with a clerk, plus drug and alcohol abuse.
Fuller, shown in his jail mug shot, completed his divorce protected by a special order from a Montgomery circuit judge, Anita Kelley. She sealed Fuller's records despite his wife's objections, a protest by our Justice Integrity Project along with two other news organizations -- and a state law requiring open court records, including in divorce cases. Our project and others were unsuccessful also in obtaining comment from Fuller or his attorneys.
Fuller faces unusually harsh new criticism from the prominent local attorney, banker and entrepreneur Donald V. Watkins in addition to the attacks on the judge by his former allies in the media and supervisors at the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Watkins, shown at right in a Facebook portrait, is a longtime Birmingham lawyer and banker. He has repeatedly denounced Fuller on Facebook and called for "thousands" of protesters to march against defendant Sept. 5 at the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta.
"Fuller has earned a reputation as a hardcore 'law and order' judge for the harsh sentences he imposes in criminal cases," Watkins said for a story published by the Montgomery Advertiser under the headline, Watkins Calls For Maximum Sentence For Fuller. "If Fuller is found guilty, we request that the Court sentence him to the maximum one-year jail time allowed under Georgia law for a misdemeanor. As I mentioned earlier, Judge Fuller believes in handing down maximum criminal sentences. I am sure he would want nothing less in his own case."
Watkins has blistered Fuller and his allies since the arrest on many grounds, including domestic violence and hypocrisy. "Defendant Fuller is used to receiving special treatment in Alabama," Watkins wrote in his open letter excerpted by the Advertiser. "He is part of the oligarchy of white men who run the State of Alabama. Fuller has absolutely no respect for women (or people of color)."
Watkins unveiled via Facebook on Aug. 24 an explosive new line of attack against Fuller. In a column entitled, Judicial Hypocrisy In Action: A Tale of Two Federal Judges, Watkins revealed the inside story of how Alabama's federal judges in 2002 used rumors of womanizing to force the resignation of a Democratic-appointed federal judge, H. Dean Buttram, Jr., after just four years into his lifetime appointment.
Watkins compared Buttram favorably with Fuller in this way:
"Buttram’s alleged womanizing never spilled over to the public arena," Watkins wrote. "He was never arrested for battering his wife or any other woman. Whatever conduct compelled the judges to ask for Buttram’s resignation never rose to the level of a public spectacle. Buttram came to the bench as a scholar and gentleman, and he left as one."
Watkins followed up Aug. 25 by writing a letter to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts outlining the scandals in a five-page letter and urging intervention by Roberts.
Roberts is shown at left and is a Republican, like nearly all recent chief justices for more than a century. The sole exception of a Democratic U.S. Supreme Court chief justice has been a seven-year term for the Truman-nominated Fred Vinson, beginning in 1946.
Roberts leads not simply the Supreme Court but the the federal court system's administrative council that has historically ignored complaints about Fuller. These complaints include a lengthy filing in 2003 by an experienced Missouri litigator calling for Fuller's impeachment on corruption grounds. The filing was made to Fuller's court but, for mysterious reasons court officials have never described, never appeared in the electronic docket supposedly available to the public.
What may shape up as most important, however, is not so much new information added to years of long-simmering scandal regarding Fuller -- but a strong, outspoken local messenger in Watkins, along with a public that has witnessed continuing scandals in Washington and across the nation. At the same time, Fuller's protective shield of political allies in Alabama is showing big signs of erosion.
Fuller's conduct has prompted many critics. Until now, however, few aside from litigants have had the gumption, resources and all-important local ties to Alabama to attack the judge publicly over a sustained period. One of the reasons? Alabama lawyers face both formal and informal reprisals for criticizing a judge.
We at the Justice Integrity Project have reported Fuller's corruption for more than five years, including a front-page story on Huffington Post in 2009, Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows….$300 Million in Bush Military Contracts Awarded to Judge’s Private Company. The story documented many Fuller scandals, including in finances, and attempt to cheat the state's pension fund out of $330,000 to appease a reputed blackmailer -- and Fuller's oversight of one of the most controversial federal prosecutions in recent history.
Buttram and Fuller's two attorneys failed to respond to our requests this week for comment. We shall add any comment that is received to the following account, which is slightly updated and corrected from a version that appeared Aug. 24.
A federal appeals court in Atlanta took the rare step last week of reassigning all cases from a prominent judge who had been arrested on a charge of battery against his wife.
Separately, a Fulton County court forbade U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller, 55, from contact with his wife Kelli Gregg Fuller, 41, a former deputy court clerk for Fuller who phoned police late Aug. 9 from a luxury hotel to say her husband was beating her after she accused him of having an affair with a law clerk.
The wife-beating and sex scandal allegations puncture the protective cocoon that the mainstream media and legal establishment have provided for years for Fuller, chief judge of Alabama's middle district from 2004 to 2011. He is shown in a blue jail jumpsuit via county courthouse video during his hearing Aug. 11.
Activists are seeking to convene women's groups for his next hearing, originally scheduled Aug. 22 and now Sept. 5 at the Fulton County courthouse. Two Atlanta attorneys, Donald V. Watson and Joseph Cole, plan to organize protests against lenient treatment for Fuller, whom Watson described as undergoing rehabilitation treatment.
We at the Justice Integrity Project and elsewhere have documented many allegations of abuses by Fuller that include financial and legal corruption. Also, we have reported his more personal vices involving claims made by his first wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, of wife-beating and sex scandal along with drug and alcohol abuse.
Longtime Alabama political writer Bob Martin, now editor of the Alabama's Montgomery Independent, is one of relatively few mainstream Alabama journalists to dig into these matters in recent years.
Based on Martin's long experience in the state capital region and recent developments, he republished Aug. 12 in the Independent (and its sister Millbrook Independent) our comprehensive Justice Integrity Project overview that day, Siegelman’s Judge Charged With Wife Beating.
Then Dana Jill Simpson, an Alabama attorney and former political researcher for Republicans, published late on Aug. 16 here on Facebook a jeremiad against Fuller. She focused especially on the misdemeanor wife-beating allegation and other issues of character.
"Every lawyer around who knew of Judge Fuller had heard for years how he treated women and political foes," she wrote. "Those of you who know me know I have spent 25 years in the trenches working in the courts in rural Alabama to protect families as much as I could from domestic violence. And to have this guy just keep beating on women while sitting on the bench is intolerable -- not just for me but is an insult to all women in this state."
Simpson had stepped forward in 2007 to swear that Fuller had helped frame former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy on corruption charges.
Simpson is shown in a screen shot from a 2008 CBS 60 Minutes report in which she and others made strong allegations also against the Bush administration federal prosecutors of Siegelman and Scrushy, as well as White House advisor Karl Rove.
But CBS failed to report her allegations against the trial judge, Fuller. Her allegations included sworn testimony that the judge "hated" Siegelman and documentation that a defense contractor the judge secretly controlled as its largest shareholder, Doss Aviation, had received without notice to litigants more than $70 million in no-bid federal contracts.
Soon thereafter the total was revealed to be $300 million, counting new awards received during the 2006 to 2009 time frame, as we reported for the Huffington Post in 2009.
Fuller has become enriched on the bench by those largely secret military contracts, which are almost never mentioned except in the independent, web-based media. As an exception, Martin broke the story in the Independent that Fuller pocketed $18 million in 2012 from the sale of Doss Aviation just before his divorce from his first wife.
The Justice Integrity Project, like other news outlets, has repeatedly requested substantive comment through the years from Fuller, who has presided in Alabama's middle district based in the state capital of Montgomery. The judge did email me once that he could not comment because he was a judge. Other requests from me and others have been ignored to the best of my knowledge.
Atlanta police last weekend alleged wife-beating by the Alabama judge who helped railroad into prison former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.
Police charged U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller with misdemeanor battery early Aug. 10 following an altercation late Saturday night at the luxury Ritz-Carlton Hotel with Fuller's second wife, Kelli Fuller, 41, a former clerk in Fuller's courthouse. Police reported that she was injured but declined hospital treatment.
The police report said that Kelli Gregg Fuller accused the judge of cheating with another clerk who worked with him, and threw glass at him after both had been drinking.
The judge allegedly responded with violence but told police he was merely trying to defend himself, according to a report by Bill Barrow of the Associated Press. The AP quoted the judge's stepson, Hunter Gregg, age 17, as saying he heard the dispute while passing a hotel corridor, and it was not the first of its kind.
Fuller, 55, shown in a mug shot Sunday, presides in Alabama's federal district based in the state capital of Montgomery, where he was chief judge from 2004 to 2011 in charge of administration as well as cases. Fuller spent more than a day in the Fulton County jail without bond, thereby missing his scheduled cases in Alabama. On Aug. 11, the Atlanta judge released Fuller on a $5,000 bond for a court hearing postponed from Aug. 22 to Sept. 5.
Two Atlanta attorneys, Donald V. Watson and Joseph Cole, plan to organize protests against lenient treatment for Fuller, whom Watson described as undergoing rehabilitation treatment.
A former Republican leader, businessman and state prosecutor in Alabama, Fuller presided in 2006 over the federal corruption trial of Siegelman, the state's leading Democrat.
Siegelman remains in prison on a six-year term that Fuller imposed with unusually harsh terms. Fuller refused the bond normally granted in white-collar cases during appeals, and ordered Siegelman paraded out of court in chains before the media. Siegelman, convicted primarily for reappointing a donor to a state board, was placed solitary confinement in various out-of-state prisons to keep him away from family and media inquiries.
The harsh sentence following many pro-prosecution rulings and courtroom irregularities by Fuller that have been approved by appellate judges and Justice Department officials.
Unprecedented protests by legal scholars, former prosecutors and outraged members of the public have failed to budge authorities to grant relief for Siegelman or probe his opponents like Fuller in any meaningful fashion, even though Fuller's career began in 2003 with an unrelated complaint seeking his impeachment for corruption.
Fuller's judicial status and his powerful political, business and media support have protected him despite serious professional and personal scandals documented here at the Justice Integrity Project site and elsewhere.
Fuller's business and professional ties to what President Eisenhower called "The Military Industrial Complex" in a 1961 Farewell Address have presented a secret and dangerous element of the power Fuller wields as judge. Among our findings are that Fuller while a judge secretly controlled unknown to the litigants facing him up to 44 percent of the stock of a military contractor, Doss Aviation, Inc., which Fuller formerly ran as CEO.
The company operated globally, including at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery.
In one of the many Kafka-like paramilitary dimensions to the Siegelman prosecution, the Air Force base secretly housed for years a special federal-state task force devoted to one purpose: finding enough evidence under the leadership of an Air Force Reserve colonel, Steven Feaga, to imprison Siegelman, whom Fuller allegedly "hated" and whom other Republican leaders wanted removed from politics.
Feaga held a joint appointment with the Justice Department and worked closely with the GOP-controlled Alabama attorney general's office to intimidate at the base prospective witnesses against Siegelman, thereby uniting military and civilian powers in a frightening and secret combination that the Obama administration has continued.
Thus, the weekend's arrest is worth extended treatment.
In an age of financial austerity and diminished professional standards, the conventional media can focus on relatively specific matters like wife-beating, sexual infidelity or politically incorrect comments about race or sex.
Complex wickedness, however, involving major institutions does not fit any longer into journalistic formulas -- and is thus ignored for the most part.
But not here, and not now.
We draw first on background from the Huffington Post, which provided exceptionally bold coverage in years past compared to the complacency and self-censorship of the mainstream media.
The Huffington Post front-paged several of my investigations in 2009, including:
- Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows….$300 Million in Bush Military Contracts Awarded to Judge’s Private Company,
- Siegelman's First Trial Judge Blasts U.S. Prosecutors, Seeks Probe of 'Unfounded' Charges,
- Alabama Decisions Illustrate Abuse of Judicial Power
- Did DoJ Blackmail Siegelman Witness With Sex Scandal?
Most of these reports were carried simultaneously by OpEdNews. All built on the previous reporting of several courageous bloggers cited in the articles, as well as occasional mainstream commentaries such as an important CBS 60 Minutes report in 2008 that helped shape public opinion, while cravenly omitting all mention of Fuller.
The gist then and now is that defense attorneys, legal scholars and whistleblowers have provided compelling evidence that prosecutors framed Siegelman for political reasons. Fuller rubber-stamped and often augmented the travesty, as did higher courts and both the Bush and Obama Justice Departments.
The record illustrates that the Bush and Obama administrations march in unison when it comes to protecting Fuller and the tainted prosecution of Siegelman.
The White House photo at right, taken before a White House dinner for the Obamas to host the Bush family, shows at least symbolically how their interests remain far closer on core issues than commonly perceived.
The GOP has long complained that Obama was at best a naive law professor and community organizer, and at worst a radical leftist and would-be autocrat.
In fact, the Siegelman case helps expose that both Obama and Bush and their peers in both parties answer to similar puppet masters, who have scant interest in allowing another of their loyal servants like Fuller become embarrassed. Furthermore, in-depth investigation reveals that Obama has much to hide about his background and the money-making of his appointees. As one recent example, the son of Vice President Biden has just been named as a counsel to an important Ukrainian company. Republicans know and leverage many of those secrets, including about Obama's rise to power, leaving the public in the dark for the most part.
To trigger an understandable framework for the corruption of the justice system under both national parties, it took a wife, a fight, a Saturday night -- and local police.
The federal corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell illustrates the power held by prosecutors to destroy a defendant -- or, conversely, to grant a wrist slap.
As the trial finished its second week, looming large is the difference between the 14 counts McDonnell and his wife Maureen currently face -- and the prosecution's pre-trial offer of merely one count against the former governor if he would plead guilty to a false statement charge.
The difference shows how our legal system grants prosecutors too much authority compared with that of judges and juries.
Sept. 4 Update: The jury convicted the former governor of 11 counts and his wife of nine. But, ironically, the jury acquitted them of false statements – same charge the couple rejected in the sweetheart plea deal prosecutors offered pretrial whereby only the former governor needed to plead guilty. The results underscores the discretion and power that prosecutors possess in such cases.
Juries theoretically decide a case. In practice, prosecutors make the most important decisions by deciding how vigorously to pursue complex cases in terms of investigative resources and charges, including whether to accuse family members to rachet up pressure on defendants.
McDonnell and his wife are shown in a file photo widely distributed via flickr. They are accused of trading the governor's office prestige for more than $150,000 in gifts, vacations and loans from Jonnie Williams, head of Star Scientific, a vitamin supplement start-up company.
A guilty plea by the former governor to one count would have enabled the former First Lady to avoid charges. Also, both of them would have been free from the trial's cascade of embarrassing evidence.
News coverage of the trial now makes it difficult for the couple and their children to re-establish their lives even if acquitted. An indictment alone, much less humiliating trial evidence, often destroys finances, savings, job prospects and often friendships and family relations.
And if the defendants are convicted of multiple charges they face mandatory minimum sentences that are far harsher than what a judge might impose for a guilty plea to one offense by one defendant.
The Justice Integrity Project has documented many instances where prosecutors ruthlessly prosecute some individuals while granting a wrist-slap or less to defendants who have done the same things. Misconduct can be a factor also. USA Today published a series in 2009 that reported 201 criminal cases in which federal judges found that prosecutors broke laws or ethics rules. The reported abuses put innocent people in jail, and set guilty people free.
From our files (and searchable on this site through the search tool at top right), examples include the continued imprisonment of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman for reappointing to a state board in 1999 a donor to a non-profit the governor supported. In an unprecedented but mysteriously unsuccessful filing to the U.S. Supreme Court, 113 former state attorneys general argued that Siegelman's conduct was not even a crime.
Another shocking example was the unsuccessful federal prosecution from 2006 to 2009 of famed medical expert Dr. Cyril Wecht, shown in a photo. Authorities charged him with 84 felony counts, most of which were for sending 43 faxes on personal matters during his 20 years as part-time coroner for Allegheny County in Pennsylvania.
For the fax-sending, prosecutors counted each fax as a separate felony charge punishable by years in prison. Yet it was conduct totaling $3.86 in extra electricity and phone charges that almost any government employee has "committed" such as in using a government-owned fax, phone or computer for a personal communication to a spouse, child, friend or someone else.
Wecht, an eminent and elderly consultant, author and medical school professor, had to spend $8.6 million in legal bills to avoid the possibility of imprisonment for the rest of his life for the fax-sending and similarly trivial accusations.
During the Wecht prosecutions in two trials, the famed federal prosecutor in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald, was revealed as having used his government fax machine also for personal purposes. But Fitzgerald was not prosecuted, and undoubtedly was not even investigated. There is no reason Fitzgerald should have been investigated for such a trivial office matter -- but there is even less reason that Wecht should have been prosecuted by Fitzgerald's colleagues extending from the Bush administration until well into the Obama era.
Seldom, however, do we see the contrast in the federal system so vividly displayed as in the McDonnell case unfolding in a Northern Virginia courtroom.