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.
Shuler faces charges stemming from his refusal to obey a judge's order to stop writing about an alleged affair involving Robert Riley Jr., an attorney who is part of Alabama's most prominent political family.
Shuler is at right in a jail mug shot showing his swollen face after his beating and attack with MACE in his garage. Authorities in his county south of Birmingham held him on two contempt of court charges and one for resisting arrest. A judge refused to set bond on the contempt charges, thereby enabling authorities to hold Shuler for an undetermined period that could be many months at the judge's discretion. His bond was $1,000 for the resisting arrest charge.
Alabama authorities paraded the shackled liberal pundit into court, where he was denounced Nov. 14 for recent news coverage about his jailing. As of this writing, Shuler remained in jail and without an attorney. His friends have started a Facebook support page. Please join here for news and comment. The state circuit court judge presiding in his libel case has set 10 a.m. Nov. 14 as hearing date for a preliminary injunction in his case. It is not clear whether Shuler will be permitted to attend, according to the defendant's wife and co-defendant, Carol Shuler. She remained at home, fearing that authorities might try to arrest her for her husband's writing and refusal to remove it from his website.
HuffPost Live! provided on Nov. 1 the first video treatment of the story. For its Freedom Watch segment, anchor Alyona Minkovsky, shown at left in a file photo, interviewed Carol Shuler, wife of the jailed journalist, and me.
The first major Alabama news coverage appeared on a web blog at 6 p.m. Oct. 29 under the inflammatory headline, Truth-teller or bomb-thrower? OpEdNews editor Joan Brunwasser earlier published an interview with me: Andrew Kreig: Alabama Journalist Roger Shuler Beaten and Arrested! A sympathetic reader of these reports dropped off enough food to last for several days, and another prevented a utility shut-off. Also, more than $1,000 has been contributed to a fund for potential legal expenses, including $200 from our Justice Integrity Project.
Alabama's leading consortium of newspapers editorialized on Nov. 8 in We must dare to defend Roger Shuler's rights, too that Shuler's treatment appears to be illegal.
Shuler remains in jail without bond. This story has passed 35,000 hits on this JIP site. As far away as Moscow, the pro-privacy fighter Edward Snowden re-Tweeted this column to his followers. Alan Colmes, right, host of the nationally syndicated Fox News Talk show bearing his name, interviewed me Oct. 31 regarding the proceedings. I noted that the court's high-handed, arbitrary decision to jail Shuler at the beginning of a civil lawsuit is the kind of judicial activism that jeopardizes any kind of litigant, not just a reporter at the start of a libel suit.
Most in the mainstream United States media maintained eerie silence. As so often said (most famously by Edward R. Murrow), a nation of sheep begets a government of wolves. Meanwhile, the Washington Times reported a federal raid against one of its reporters: Armed agents seize records of reporter.
Robert Riley, Jr., son of two-term Alabama Bob Riley, has denied Shuler's allegations of an affair, as illustrated by legal filings in the case. Hot links are below that include their denials.
Shuler is shown at left in a file photo outside his home with the family's pet dog, Murphy, whose perseverance inspired the name of his blog.Shuler's wife, Carol, told me her husband was beaten and arrested by four deputies in their garage about 6 p.m. after he returned home from his blogging at a public library.
She said she was home at the time, but heard nothing of the arrest and scuffling at their attached garage. She became frantic with worry that someone had killed her husband based on his investigative reporting about law enforcement officials and their business allies. For years, Shuler has received death threats.
According to her account: With her husband disappeared, she called a former judge in another state whom she knew from her husband's reporting. The former judge ascertained that Roger had been arrested and jailed, and informed her after midnight.
Carol Shuler, shown in a personal file photo right, has told me and HuffPo Live! that she has been barricaded in their home in Birmingham. She worried about her own safety from deputies seeking to arrest her also on contempt of court charges.
"Roger's afraid he could be in there for months," Carol Shuler told me by phone early Friday. "Meanwhile, I'm stuck in the house with no food, money or Internet. It's one thing if your husband is arrested. But another thing entirely if they're after you. I can't go anywhere." She is an Alabama native married in 1989. The childless couple has no close relatives nearby she feels she can call upon. Both she and her husband were fired several years ago from their jobs, and have claimed it was reprisal in each instance for his reporting about public affairs.
Roger Shuler's columns reporting judicial, prosecutorial and police misconduct across Alabama and the Deep South are often excerpted on the Justice Integrity Project and reprinted in full by OpEd News, Salon, FireDogLake, among other sites. The law enforcement actions against the Shulers threaten a major setback for the nation's embattled but increasingly timid news media.
Official actions were fostered by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Moore became nationally famous in 2003 for ruling that his word and his respect for the Ten Commandments trumps U.S. Supreme Court law. Even admonishments of the state's ultra-conservative Attorney General at the time, William Pryor, Jr., failed to persuade Moore to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from state property.
The Shuler prosecution illustrates how one-party governance in the Deep South inspired by Karl Rove and other factors have fostered a new view of the law. More precisely, it seems to be a return to old views. In clear-cut fashion, Judges and their private sector allies increasingly believe they can create result-oriented law to be enforced with drastic penalties against reporters or anyone else.
As a political consultant, Rove helped change Alabama's Supreme Court from all-Democrat in the 1990s to all-Republican in recent years. The story has been told many times. So, I provide a brief summary here.
Rove's strategies involved not simply expert concepts and implementation. Also, he pushed the boundaries of opposition research, surveillance, campaign finance, election tabulation, and criminal prosecutions far beyond normal boundaries even for "hardball" politics.
One example was behind the scenes work with Jack Abramoff, who concedes raising $20 million from gambling interests to defeat Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman (1999-2003) and his goals. Rove -- who had hired Abramoff's former assistant as his own assistant in the White House -- later said he barely knew Abramoff. The photo below at left helps show the preposterous level of such denials. The photo below shows a Texas casino client of Abramoff's visiting the White House to meet President Bush -- seen at center, greeting the casino client. Rove can be seen at far right. Abramoff is in the background, visible over Bush's left shoulder. The photo surfaced after Rove had denied working with Abramoff.
At the Bush White House, the evidence is compelling that Rove and Attorney Gen. Alberto Gonzales helped orchestrate the criminal prosecution on trumped up charges of prominent Democrats across the nation, especially in Deep South states. The best known victim was Siegelman, the state's leading Democrat. Rove pressured U.S. attorneys, who were fired if they did not comply. The story, then, has been to track the deeds of prosecutors as in Alabama who pursued weak cases for crass career gain.
Rove and his confederates have denied wrongdoing. Timid officials in the Obama administration and at major news organizations have failed to follow the clear-cut evidence of the scandals. My long-running investigation tracking Alabama corruption parallels patterns evident elsewhere in the United States (especially Washington) and overseas.
The astounding scandals led me to found the non-partisan Justice Integrity Project in cooperation with civic leaders. That research led in turn to my new book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters.
The bogus prosecutions smeared officials in Alabama as elsewhere. Revealing those scandals builds on the work of courageous reporters, authors and whistleblowers for the past century. For these reasons, I know the legal dangers facing the Shulers.
Gutting Press Freedom, Due Process and Civil Rights, Dixie-Style
The Riley defamation case against the Shuler family -- which has pursued a seemingly irrational crusade to report scandals despite many threats and economic hardships -- undermines the nation's leading First Amendment Supreme Court cases, which arose from the civil rights struggle.
In New York Times v. Sullivan, the court held 9-0 in 1964 that Alabama police commissioner L.B. Sullivan had to prove actual malice before receiving a $500,000 jury verdict.
The defendants were the New York Times and civil rights leaders. They allowed relatively minor errors in a Times ad that civil rights groups had purchased in 1960 to protest the harsh pro-segregation regime. Sullivan, police commissioner in the state capitol of Montgomery, was not named in the ad. But a sympathetic jury found (like others at the time) that Sullivan had been libeled by civil rights advocates.
Defendants included close aides of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., an Alabama resident portrayed below left with President Lyndon B. Johnson after national news coverage helped curtail the Alabama beatings and other civil rights abuses.
The Supreme Court decision found a First Amendment basis for protecting newspaper comment regarding public figures even if an error occurs unless the mistake was made with "reckless disregard" of the truth or knowledge of the claim's falsity. This rule made possible national news coverage of the civil rights movement that had been thwarted by nearly $300 million of dollars of libel verdicts from Deep South juries on behalf of white supremacists seeking to ruin those news organizations that dared cover that era's struggles against desegregation and suppression of black voting rights.
The rule also makes possible much of the rest of aggressive news coverage. An Alabama-based reversal of that Constitutional protection would have historic impact upon the nation's democracy, and yet the national news media has so far ignored the Shuler plight with rare exceptions by fellow bloggers.
Under the current generation's ideologues and law-manipulators in what is sometimes known as the Cradle of the Confederacy, the reprisals ordered against Shuler strike also at other fundamental protections for the free press.
In 1931, for example, the Supreme Court forbade prior restraint of newspapers in almost every situation. In Near v. Minnesota, the court struck down a Minnesota "public nuisance" law aimed at preventing a bigoted newspaper owner from publishing his screeds. The court ruled that trial litigation with the possibility of money damages is the constitutional way to litigate over potentially illegal harm from publication. Those principles have been confirmed many times, including in a 1971 Supreme Court case allowing publication of the Pentagon Papers.
Also, Alabama's Supreme Court has ruled that court proceedings are presumed public. Yet the judge called out of retirement by Alabama's Supreme Court to dispose of the Shuler case has forbidden Shuler from writing about the case -- known as "prior restraint." Also, Circuit Court Judge Claud (sic) Neilson ordered that the court record be sealed, deterring others from reporting on the case.
At our Justice Integrity Project website and in my columns for such web-based publications as the Huffington Post and OpEd News, I have often reported that Alabama's state and federal courts have increasingly ordered secret proceedings to protect the privacy of prominent officials accused of corruption.
Furthermore, Alabama's three largest newspapers are each on three-times-a-week publication schedules because of weak finances. After massive staff layoffs and management loyalty to the state's essentially one-party political process, the newspapers now largely ignore courtroom and political power plays. As recently as a decade ago, the evidence would have attracted many news stories.
The Rove Counter-Revolution
Under guidance from Karl Rove and his allies, virtually all major state and federal offices have become Republican except for one gerrymandered congressional district combining many of the state's black and other Democratic-oriented voters. The Atlantic Magazine reported the process in a major article in 2004.
Rove denied in his memoir, at left, and otherwise that he has been involved in relevant misconduct, or has any particular interest in Alabama.
But close study for Puppetry suggests otherwise, as amplified below. For one thing, he was deeply implicated in the 2006 U.S. attorney firing scandal. Also, even a superficial overview of Rove's career shows that he has been a consultant to Alabama Republican political and business interests, including fellow Republican strategist William Canary, head of the Business Council of Alabama.
Furthermore, I have ascertained that Rove's wife of 24 years until recent years, Darby Hickson Rove, attended Murphy High School in Mobile, Alabama, as indicated below.
At a time of the notorious church bombings in Birmingham illustrating continuing resistance to desegregation, Murphy High was the first school integrated in the state after Gov. George Wallace's epic effort to "stand in the schoolhouse" door in 1963 to block integration of the University of Alabama. When Wallace lost that battle because of federal courts and troops the rest of the segregated public school system gradually dwindled, beginning with Murphy High School in 1964. By coincidence, future Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was a student leader at the school urging peaceful coexistence.
Shuler, age 56, is unquestionably the nation's leading irritant to Alabama's Republican power structure. Shuler has provided commentary and news commentary about the courts that few else dare attempt.
Meanwhile, the much-weakened national media and national civil liberties groups largely remain aloof from the struggles of bloggers and even investigative reporters, although there is no shortage of rhetoric in the abstract about the need for a free press -- or petition-signing against abuses against journalists by regimes in foreign nations not regarded as close United States allies.
I have observed many times that DC-based reporters and civil rights organizations tend to have rose-colored views regarding the integrity of politicians and judges. Also, they rely heavily on wire service reports generated by local newspapers for information about such Deep South travesties as those routinely occurring in Alabama.Roger Shuler recently reported on the plight of Bonnie Cahalane, a woman jailed for nearly five months because she lacked funds to make a payment ordered in her divorce case.
Neilson also forbade the Shulers from writing in the future about the case.
To ensure no one else does so, the judge also sealed the court file. Riley and Duke, who was married at the time of the purported affair, have each denied Shuler's claims, which include an allegation she had an abortion at the request of the married Riley.
"If this can happen to us it can happen to anybody," Carol Shuler told me in describing the oppressive conditions her family is facing for her husband's commentaries. "This is supposed to be America. You can't turn a blind eye when someone's trying to speak the truth."
According to the articles previously written by Shuler, he did not receive proper legal notice of the suit. Imagine a court locking up a journalist for exercising his constitutional right to freedom of the press. This is an important civil rights and first amendment story. It impacts not just print media but especially digital media.
Shuler, whose columns we often excerpt at the Justice Integrity Project, is his state's leading investigative reporter regarding its rampant judicial and legal corruption. Arguably, he is also the most important investigative journalist regarding other Deep South legal cases. A national survey recently described Legal Schnauzer as the nation's 39th most important legal blog, making it virtually the only one in the top 50 run by one person without any institutional support.
Shuler has written hundreds of columns simply about government misconduct in the federal-state frame up of Siegelman, Alabama's leading Democrat and a potential future presidential contender.
The elder Riley, at right, succeeded Siegelman in a 2002 election marred by electronic ballot theft shifting enough votes in Baldwin County near Mobile after polls closed so that Siegelman's initial victory announcement had to be reversed the next morning.
Siegelman is now serving a long prison term for his 1999 actions -- primarily for soliciting a donation from businessman Richard Scrushy for an education reform non-profit. An unprecedented numbers of former prosecutors (113 former state attorneys general) and law professors have argued that Siegelman's actions were not a crime.
However, the Obama administration has endorsed the Bush-era prosecution of Siegelman despite many gross irregularities we and others have documented through the years. Among them are $300 million in Bush-era contracts secretly awarded to a company controlled by Siegelman's trial judge, whose divorce action revealing his finances and his affair with a federal court clerk under his command was ordered sealed in violation of Alabama Supreme Court precedent.
Shuler is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, which is highly respected in press circles. He worked for the Birmingham Post-Herald for 11 years (1978-89), as a reporter and copy editor. The newspaper had the largest circulation in Alabama among morning newspapers. Shuler worked as an editor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham from 1989 to 2008.
The university fired him under murky circumstances after he began writing in his spare time about the Siegelman prosecution by the Bush Justice Department. Shuler alleges that the firing was reprisal and that his wife's employer fired her for the same reason.
Carol Shuler told me they have no money for bond or even Internet access. Roger Shuler had been traveling to a public library to write his five-day per week column and conduct other correspondence before his jailing. "We don't even have enough cash for a Kit-Kat bar at the library vending machine."
Shuler has published many other controversial columns, including several recently gaining high national attention for linking alleged sex scandals with public policy issues. One series portrayed the powerful and controversial federal appeals court judge William Pryor as having posed stark naked in college-age photos later published on a gay porn website. Pryor has denied the photos were of him.
Also, Shuler has published many columns alleging that Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has had an affair with married political operative, who recently underwent a divorce. All of those involved are Republicans who have described themselves as family values advocates. I am among the investigative reporters who have heard many of the same allegations for years.
Unknown persons have created a website, Legal Schnauzer Exposed, to provide negative information about Shuler and his wife. Shuler has written that he has heard he faces at least one other defamation action but has not been officially served. He denies that he must comply with the judge's contempt order in the defamation case by Riley and Duke.
Robert Riley Jr., who often goes by the name Rob, is a Yale Law School graduate who has become a prominent attorney in Alabama. Among other cases was serving as co-counsel with former Siegelman defense attorney in a class action that resulted in a $500 million fraud verdict against Scrushy, Siegelman's co-defendant in the criminal case. Shuler wrote repeatedly that the representation constituted a conflict, which the lawyers denied. Such commentary has antagonized many judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and political operatives in Alabama.
Neilson was a contemporary of the elder Riley at the University of Alabama in the mid-1960s. Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, widely known as "The Ten Commandments" judge who defied court precedents in 2003 to insist that state residents publicly honor the commandments, brought Neilson out of retirement to handle the defamation case brought by Riley and Duke even though Neilson was from another part of the state, Demopolis, than the jurisdiction of the case.
The arrest occurred as follows, according to an account Carol Shuler heard by jail phone from her husband. She relayed it in calls to me and radio host Peter B. Collins, who shared this account with his listeners following my interview with him for his show today:
Shuler’s wife, Carol, added details about the arrest of Roger. Like all of the events in this matter, the arrest appears improper – no warrant or other legal instrument was referenced or shown. Carol reports that her husband was invited to step out of his garage by the first officer; when Roger declined and tried to enter his house, he was grabbed, “whaled on” and sprayed with mace. She reports multiple injuries and that Roger was threatened with a broken arm by an officer as he was hauled off.
We review the astounding lack of legal basis for the proceedings to date, from the selection of retired Judge Neilsen by state supreme court justice Roy Moore to the one-sided hearing that led to an illegal injunction and orders for Shuler to appear without proper service.Author, commentator and former Navy intelligence analyst Wayne Madsen first broke the story of Shuler's arrest in a column excerpted below. Madsen's columns, like those of Shuler, have traced the Riley's political machine to a worldwide network of defense contractors that sought Siegelman's imprisonment for sordid reasons.
Legal Schnauzer, Roger Shuler Recounts Details of Harrowing Night of Police Brutality, Unlawful Arrest on Oct. 23, Carol Shuler, Jan. 2, 2014. The beating of a journalist in Ukraine recently made international news. Such thuggish tactics are not limited to the republics of the former Soviet Union and other developing countries. They can be found right here in Alabama. Legal Schnauzer publisher Roger Shuler was the victim of police brutality when he was unlawfully arrested because of a lawsuit filed by Republican political figure Rob Riley. Shuler was returning home from a visit to the North Shelby Library and a brief stop for dinner when a Shelby County police car almost crashed into him in his driveway at roughly 5:45 p.m. on Oct. 23. Deputy Chris Blevins apparently was trying to keep Shuler from entering his own garage and almost hit the Shuler vehicle and their house. Shuler had the garage door open and a free entry into the garage so he drove in and that's when the brutality started. Blevins entered the Shuler garage which is underneath their house even though the deputy did not show a search warrant or an arrest warrant of any kind. Blevins then proceeded to brutalize Shuler knocking him to the floor three times and spraying mace in his face and eventually pressed resisting arrest charges against Shuler even though there is no evidence that Shuler initiated contact with Blevins at all. "If a regular citizen had done to me what Chris Blevins did, the individual would be facing multiple counts of felony assault," Shuler said. "This is simple police brutality that I experienced and it's one of the most godawful experiences of my life. I've never been beaten like this. It left me with at least 10-12 cuts, abrasions and bruises on my arms, legs, torso and back. And according to Deputy Blevin's own incident report, he did not show a warrant. He claims he told me he had a warrant, but he didn't. That is a lie. He did not tell me that. And he initiated contact with me and I made no effort to turn away from him or to flee in any way. This is a scene right out of Hitler's Nazi Germany, but it happened right in our garage."
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.
Al.com, We must dare to defend Roger Shuler's rights, too, Mike Marshall, Nov. 8, 2013. Mike Marshall is editorial director of Al.com, a consortium of Alabama newspapers. 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.
Justice Integrity Project, Alabama Kangaroo Court Parades Liberal Commentator in Chains, Continues Indefinite Jailing, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 15, 2013.
HuffPost Live! Roger Shuler: Journalist Beaten & Arrested, Interview of Carol Shuler and Andrew Kreig by Freedom Watch Zone host Alyona Minkovski, above, 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. Shuler faces charges stemming from his refusal to obey a judge's order to stop writing about an alleged affair involving Robert Riley Jr., an attorney who is part of Alabama's most prominent political family.
OpEd News, Andrew Kreig: Alabama Journalist Roger Shuler Beaten and Arrested! Interview by Joan Brunwasser, Oct. 26, 2013. Author Andrew Kreig: Roger Shuler's arrest stems from his reporting and commentary about political, government, legal, sexual, and financial intrigues normally kept out of the media that the public sees. He has made the courageous and public-spirited decision that the public deserves to know in keeping with our constitutional and other mantras about the right of free expression, and the need for it in a democracy.
Legal Schnauzer, PayPal Donations Support the Continuing Fight for Justice in the Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Carol Shuler, Nov. 6, 2013. Since Roger's brutal beating and unlawful arrest on Oct 23, we have been gratified by the chorus of folks we've heard from who wanted to help us and offered to lend their support in a variety of ways in our fight for justice. Many of those people 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, 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.
Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Alabama sheriffs assault, arrest, and imprison on-line journalist, Wayne Madsen, right, Oct. 25, 2013. (Note: Subscription required but author encourages wide, free dissemination) Roger Shuler, the enterprising Alabama on-line journalist whose Legal Schnauzer website has held accountable corrupt Alabama politicians and judges, was assaulted by four Alabama sheriffs on the evening of October 23, arrested, and hauled off to jail. Shuler, a former reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald, earlier evaded the subpoena by sheriffs who engaged Shuler in an unconstitutional traffic stop. The subpoena had been issued by retired Alabama judge Claud Neilson who had enjoined Shuler from publishing any articles regarding an alleged extramarital affair involving a prospective U.S. House of Representatives candidate.
The candidate in question is Rob Riley, Jr., the son of Alabama Governor Bob Riley, the man who helped engineer the electoral theft of the governorship from Democratic Governor Don Siegelman in 2002 and the subsequent political prosecution and imprisonment of Siegelman for six and a half years on trumped-up charges. Riley, Jr. sued Shuler and his wife Carol over a Legal Schnauzer report that Riley had engaged in an extramarital affair with a lobbyist named Liberty Duke.
WMR reported on Neilson's conflict-of-interest in the matter involving the junior Riley on October 16. Neilson also ordered sealed all records relating to the law suit. Neilson's order prohibiting Shuler from publishing any further stories about Riley represents nothing less than a court-ordered injunction imposing prior restraint on freedom of the press, a guaranteed right under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Although guaranteeing constitutional rights in Alabama has been a problem going back to the days of Jim Crow and the Dixiecrats, Alabama has retrogressed in recent years to a draconian past that made the state seem more like a "banana republic" of Central America than a southern state in North America.
Washington Times, Armed agents seize records of reporter, Guy Taylor, Oct. 25, 2013. Washington Times prepares legal action. Maryland state police and federal agents used a search warrant in an unrelated criminal investigation to seize the private reporting files of an award-winning former investigative journalist for the Washington Times who had exposed problems in the Homeland Security Department's Federal Air Marshal Service. Reporter Audrey Hudson said the investigators, who included an agent for Homeland's Coast Guard service, took her private notes and government documents that she had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act during a predawn raid of her family home on Aug. 6. The documents, some which chronicled her sources and her work at the Times about problems inside the Homeland Security Department, were seized under a warrant to search for unregistered firearms and a “potato gun” suspected of belonging to her husband, Paul Flanagan, a Coast Guard employee. Mr. Flanagan has not been charged with any wrongdoing since the raid. The warrant, obtained by the Times, offered no specific permission to seize reporting notes or files.
Selected Legal Filings in Riley v. Shuler
Legal Schnauzer, Rob Riley Is Writing Court Orders To Benefit Himself In Lawsuit Designed To Stifle Reporting About Affair, Roger Shuler, Oct. 22, 2013. Public documents indicate Alabama Republican Rob Riley is preparing court orders that wind up with a judge's signature and then are issued as if they originated with the court. In fact, Riley's law office apparently has prepared all of the key orders that have been rendered so far in his defamation lawsuit that seeks to shut down my reporting on Riley's extramarital affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke. Jay Murrill, an attorney at Riley's law firm who is representing his boss in the case, appears to have written an order to grant a preliminary injunction and seal the public file, plus an order to hold us in contempt. If granted, the contempt order could subject us to incarceration. How disturbing is this scenario? Rob Riley, the son of former two-term governor Bob Riley, seems to be serving as a party, legal researcher, court clerk, and de facto judge in a Shelby County Circuit Court case styled Robert R. Riley Jr. and Liberty Duke v. Roger Shuler, Carol T. Shuler and Legal Schnauzer, Civil Action Nos. 2013-236 and 237. Do Rob Riley's ties to his father and related GOP heavyweights--not to mention national figures such as Karl Rove and Jack Abramoff -- give him the clout to take over a court case and run it for his own benefit? That's exactly what appears to be happening.
Riley -- Order on Injunction, 10/4/13
Riley -- Petition for Contempt, 10/4/13
Riley -- Motion to Seal, 7/23/13
Riley -- Proposed Order on Contempt, 10/7/13
Riley -- Order on Contempt, 10/7/13
Riley -- Shuler Motion to Quash, filed 10/16
Related News Coverage
Peter B. Collins, Update on Shuler Case With Guest Andrew Kreig, Peter B. Collins, Oct. 25, 2013. As reported here yesterday, Roger Shuler was grabbed by police officers on Wednesday evening and remains jailed on charges of contempt of court and resisting arrest. Andrew Kreig of the Justice Integrity Project returns, adding his information, research and commentary on this developing story. You can read Kreig’s article and see Shuler’s booking photo here. Kreig reports that he has facilitated posting of bond money on the resisting arrest charge, but the bail bondsman informs him that Shuler will continue to be held on the contempt charges.
Peter B. Collins, Legal Schnauzer’s Roger Shuler Gets Payback for Exposing Corrupt Leaders in Alabama, Peter B. Collins, left, Oct. 8, 2013. Veteran fighter for justice and podcast contributor Roger Shuler returns with a surreal report of an illegal injunction, a false traffic stop, and harassment by local deputies. Hear the full story, and how you can help Shuler at a critical time. Shuler’s Legal Schnauzer blog has featured well-researched and sordid stories of hypocrites in Alabama: the current Attorney General, Luther Strange’s affair with Jessica Garrison (both were married, she’s since divorced); federal appeals judge Bill Pryor’s photo from a gay porn site (Pryor is married with kids, and cancelled a family vacation to Disney World when it coincided with Gay Pride Week); and Rob Riley, a power lawyer and son of former Gov. Bob Riley (who displaced Don Siegelman in the Rove-inspired 2002 election theft and railroading of Siegelman into federal prison) who reportedly had an affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke that resulted in a pregnancy and abortion. These are Alabama’s defenders of family values.
Al.com, Truth-teller or bomb-thrower? Legal Schnauzer blogger jailed after violating court order, Kyle Whitmire, Oct. 29, 2013. 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. For years, Roger Shuler has written about elected officials and those close to them, recently mixing the credulity of public documents with saucy allegations of marital infidelity and criminality. Earlier this month, a state court judge told him to stop. He didn't. And now he is in jail.
Shelby County, ‘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.
Peter B. Collins, Bulletin: Alabama Blogger Roger Shuler Arrested for “Contempt” of Kangaroo Court, Peter B. Collins, Oct. 24, 2013. Breaking: Roger Shuler arrested for “contempt” of kangaroo court in Alabama, following illegal court order violating First Amendement, prior restraint. Roger Shuler, the intrepid journalist who runs the Legal Schnauzer blog and a longtime contributor to this program, was arrested Wednesday evening and is jailed in Shelby County, Alabama – perhaps indefinitely. Shuler has been sued by prominent Alabama Republican Rob Riley for exposing Riley’s extramarital affair. As detailed in our recent podcast on October 8, a retired judge who has only heard Riley’s side of the story has issued an illegal injunction on the Shulers and their blog, which violates the First Amendment and court precedents on prior restraint.
Al Jazeera America, Alabama journalist beaten and jailed, The Stream Team, Oct. 28, 2013. A controversial Alabama investigative journalist behind Legal Schnauzer was beaten in his garage and arrested by four Shelby County sheriff's deputies on October 23. Roger Shuler is currently being held on two contempt of court charges and one for resisting arrest. The charges stem from his refusal to obey a judge's order to stop writing about an alleged affair involving Robert Riley Jr., a major Republican political figure and the son of former two-term Alabama governor Bob Riley, and lobbyist Liberty Duke.
Reason.com, Alabama Blogger Jailed, Apparently For Not Obeying Order To Stop Publishing Certain Information about Politician, Brian Doherty, Oct. 25, 2013.Weird story out of Alabama, as reported by the Justice Integrity Project: 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.
American Spectator, Crazy in Alabama, Robert Stacy McCain, Oct. 29, 2013. A blogger’s arrest highlights a widespread epidemic of liberal lunacy. Editor's Note: For context, we provide this alternative view of the Shuler arrest in the near-absence of mainstream news coverage. The author, Robert Stacy McCain, has undertaken a number of blog-driven crusades attacking opponents of Karl Rove and other Republicans.
Popehat, Alabama Blogger Roger Shuler Arrested For Violation of Unconstitutional Injunction, Ken White, Oct 27, 2013. So how did Judge Neilson excuse granting Riley's motion for a preliminary injunction before any trial of the matter? Very badly. Judge Neilson — who may have executed a proposed order from Riley's attorneys — utterly failed to cite or distinguish any of the wall of authority discussing how preliminary injunctions are strongly disfavored in both equity and First Amendment law. Judge Neilson didn't cite the "only in the most extraordinary circumstances" rule, let alone apply it. He only cited two Alabama cases — one 1947 case about defamation of a business that had no First Amendment analysis, and one appeal of a criminal harassment conviction that doesn't even mention prior restraint or injunctions. In a footnote, Judge Neilson cited a melange of state and federal cases from California, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois with no explanation or analysis. Those cases actually undermine his authority to issue the injunction, because they support the proposition that an injunction against defamation is almost always inappropriate before a finding on the merits at trial or if the plaintiff wins a summary judgment motion. It appears that the drafter of this order simply scoured the nation for the handful of outlier cases saying something positive about injunctions against defamation — plus the tiny number of cases approving them pretrial — while completely ignoring the authority (including from the United States Supreme Court) that such injunctions are inappropriate. Editor's Note: The excerpt above is notable for a legal argument in favor of Shuler's position by author that makes highly insulting comments about Shuler and his politics.
Liberaland, Schmalfeldt On Roger Shuler’s Arrest: Where’s The Media? Dave Doctor Gonzo, Oct. 28, 2013. It turns out we’re not the only ones wondering where the heck the media is on reporting the brutal and apparently illegal arrest of law blogger Roger Shuler. OpEdNews’s William Schmalfeldt takes the liberal blogosphere to the woodshed: The so-called “liberal” media should hang its head in shame over its silence in response to the beating, arrest, and jailing without bond of liberal blogger Roger Shuler. Since Shuler was arrested in front of his house, beaten black and blue by the police, thrown into a Shelby County, Alabama, squad car and jailed without bond on two counts of contempt of court, not only have the major media outlets been silent, outside of a few minor league blogs, the big left-wing blogs like Think Progress, Talking Points Memo — personally contacted by this writer — have yet to write a word about the case. Imagine the outrage if Erick Erickson of RedState were accosted by police, thrown against his garage door, had his arm twisted behind his back being told by the police they were going to “break” it.
Legal Schnauzer, Judge In Rob Riley's Lawsuit Violates 230 years of U.S. Law To Impose Prior Restraint On Reports About Messy Affair, Roger Shuler, Oct. 8, 2013. An Alabama judge's preliminary injunction in a defamation case runs counter to more than 230 years of case law on free speech in the United States. Circuit Judge Claud D. Neilson issued a ruling dated October 1, 2013, ordering me not to write about Alabama Republican Rob Riley and his affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke. Neilson also ordered me to remove all posts from Legal Schnauzer about the affair and went so far as to seal the entire file--with no apparent legal justification--and forbid any reporting on the case. Based on recent press reports and Riley's bizarre actions, it seems clear that he wants the Liberty Duke story to go away so he can pursue a U.S. House seat.
Legal Schnauzer, Liberty Duke Paid A Heavy Price In Quickie Divorce That Followed Extramarital Affair With Rob Riley, Roger Shuler, Oct. 24, 2013. Alabama lobbyist Liberty Duke lost her interest in the marital home, waived all right to alimony, and agreed to pay all credit-card debts in her 2006 divorce, court documents show. Sources tell Legal Schnauzer that the divorce came in the same general time frame as Liberty Duke's extramarital affair with Homewood attorney Rob Riley, the son of former two-term Republican Governor Bob Riley.
Legal Schnauzer, Alabama Republican Rob Riley Seeks Blogger's Arrest Over Series Of Posts About Extramarital Affair, Roger Shuler, Oct. 21, 2013. Alabama Republican Rob Riley has filed a proposed court order that seeks the arrest of my wife and me for reporting here at Legal Schnauzer on Riley's extramarital affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke. Riley, who reportedly plans to seek the U.S. House seat being vacated by Spencer Bachus, wants two citizens arrested for -- get this -- practicing journalism. The preceding paragraphs were not taken from The Onion. They also were not pulled from a document that dates to Josef Stalin's Soviet Union. They are for real, and they are happening right now in Karl Rove's Alabama. (What makes my home state "Karl Rove's Alabama"? The answer can be found in Joshua Green's definitive article on the subject, "Karl Rove In a Corner," from a 2004 issue of
Legal Schnauzer, Alan Colmes And Fox News Shine A Hot National Spotlight On Rob Riley's Thuggish Harassment Of Legal Schnauzer, Roger Shuler, Oct. 11, 2013. One of the nation's leading liberal voices is shining a spotlight on Alabama Republican Rob Riley and his efforts to shut down our reporting about Riley's extramarital affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke. Alan Colmes reports at his Liberland blog that Riley's tactics smack of desperation and show shines of backfiring. In a post dated October 10 ("Desperation: Alabama GOPer's Harassment of Legal Blogger Backfiring?"), Colmes notes that Riley is seeking to hold me in contempt of court, even though a judge's preliminary injunction runs counter to black-letter Alabama law. Liberland compares Riley's legal shenanigans to an episode of the Keystone Kops.
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 Medeios 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. (Lawsuit Document) This may also extend to the anonymous posters on Shuler’s website. Shuler has repeatedly posted stories on his site accusing Garrison of having an ongoing sexual affair with the Attorney General.
Legal Schnauzer, Riley Tries To Hold Legal Schnauzer In Contempt Of Court On Preliminary Injunction That Doesn't Exist Under Law, Roger Shuler, Oct. 10, 2013. Alabama Republican Rob Riley has filed documents that seek to have me held in contempt of court for violating a preliminary injunction related to our coverage of Riley's extramarital affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke. Under Alabama law, however, no preliminary injunction exists because we were not given proper notice of a hearing on the matter. In fact, Riley's own court documents prove that no lawful injunction exists.
Legal Schnauzer, The Siegelman Case: Ten Years of Injustice--and Counting, Roger Shuler, April 13, 2011. In April 2001, former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman hired a lawyer after articles in statewide newspapers indicated a federal grand jury was focusing on his administration.
Legal Schnauzer, Justice Department Continues to Play Hide and Seek with Siegelman Documents, Sept. 26, 2011. Thee decision to prosecute Siegelman and Scrushy for "crimes" that do not exist under the law rests with the Bush administration. But the decision to stonewall on DOJ records now rests with the Obama administration.
Legal Schnauzer, Is Karl Rove Driving the Effort to Prosecute Julian Assange? Roger Shuler, Dec. 14, 2010. Former Bush White House strategist Karl Rove likely is playing a leading role in the effort to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a source with ties to the justice community tells Legal Schnauzer. Assange was arrested last week in London for alleged sex crimes in Sweden. A lawyer for Assange said Monday that the arrest was a ruse designed to give the United States more time to build a case against Assange on other charges. The lawyer said a grand jury is being prepared in Washington, D.C., to look into WikiLeaks' activities. Meanwhile, Assange has a court date today in the UK, where he is expected to seek a release on bail.
Justice Integrity Project, How To Deal With a Death Threat, Andrew Kreig, Aug. 31, 2011. My Alabama colleague Roger Shuler this week published two powerful blogs addressing what he justifiably regards as a threat of death or other serious harm delivered by email Monday. "Yours is coming -- Don't Worry," said the email. The coding indicates that it came from a computer located near Shuler's home in Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city.
Huffington Post, Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows, Andrew Kreig, May 15, 2009. 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. These are the opinions of Missouri attorney Paul B. Weeks, who is speaking out publicly for the first time since his effort in 2003 to obtain the impeachment of U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of Montgomery on Doss Aviation-related allegations.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
Raw Story, NC GOP official fired after bragging voter ID law would ‘kick the Democrats’ butt,’ Arturo Garcia, Oct. 24, 2013. A North Carolina Republican official has been fired from the state party executive board following an appearance on The Daily Show in which he boasted about the implications of the widely-criticized voting law recently enacted by the GOP-heavy state legislature, but he refuses to apologize for his remarks. “There’s nothing I said that I would take back. So be it,” state GOP executive committee member Don Yelton, right, said in an interview with the Asheville Citizen-Times. In the cable interview, Yelton tells Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi that the new voting law, which mandates voter identifications, the curtailing of early voting operations and does not allow college students to vote using their school ID, “is going to kick the Democrats in the butt.” He also dismisses concerns the law will particularly affect communities of color by saying, “If it hurts a bunch of lazy Blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”
Washington Post, For Herman Wallace, solitary confinement amounted to a death sentence, David Cole, Oct. 24, 2013. When Herman Wallace died Oct. 4 at age 71, he had been a free man for about 2½ days. Before that, he spent 41 years in solitary confinement in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. Forty-one years. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture has concluded that, because of the mental suffering it inflicts, solitary confinement imposed as punishment for even 15 days can constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Yet for 41 years, Wallace was confined to a 6-by-9-foot cell for 23 hours a day.
OpEd News, An Injunction Against the Truth, Walter Brasch, Oct. 26, 2013. Vera Scroggins, a retired real estate agent and nurse's aide, was in Common Pleas Court for Susquehanna County, Pa., to explain why a temporary injunction should not be issued against her. Before her were four lawyers and several employees of Cabot Gas and Oil, who accused her of trespassing and causing irreparable harm to the company that had almost $1 billion in revenue in 2012. They didn't want her on their property they owned or leased in the Marcellus Shale. Scroggins is an anti-fracking activist, someone who not only knows what is happening in the gas fields of northeastern Pennsylvania, but willingly devotes much of her day to helping others to see and understand the damage fracking causes. Since 2010, she had led visitors, government officials, and journalists on tours of the gas fields, to rigs and well pads, pipelines, compressor stations, and roads damaged by the heavy volume of truck traffic necessary to build and support the wells.
OpEd News, An Injunction Against the Truth, Walter Brasch, Oct. 26, 2013.Vera Scroggins, a retired real estate agent and nurse's aide, was in Common Pleas Court for Susquehanna County, Pa., to explain why a temporary injunction should not be issued against her. Before her were four lawyers and several employees of Cabot Gas and Oil, who accused her of trespassing and causing irreparable harm to the company that had almost $1 billion in revenue in 2012. They didn't want her on their property they owned or leased in the Marcellus Shale. Scroggins is an anti-fracking activist, someone who not only knows what is happening in the gas fields of northeastern Pennsylvania, but willingly devotes much of her day to helping others to see and understand the damage fracking causes. And now in a court room in Montrose, she was accused of trespassing and forced to defend herself. She asked Judge Kenneth W. Seamans for a continuance. She explained she only received by mail the papers the previous Thursday and was told she had 20 days to respond. She explained on Friday a sheriff's deputy came to her house with copies of the same papers that ordered her to court three days later. She explained she had tried to secure an attorney, but was unable to do so over the weekend.