Alabama Kangaroo Court Parades Liberal Commentator in Chains, Continues Indefinite Jailing

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on November 15, 2013

Alabama authorities paraded a shackled liberal pundit into court to denounce him Nov. 14 for recent news coverage about his jailing. Then defendant Roger Shuler was forced to defend his writing while bound and without a lawyer.

Shuler is a 56-year-old commentator jailed on contempt of court charges Oct. 23 arising out of a libel suit. He published columns alleging a sex scandal involving Robert Riley, Jr., a wealthy, politically powerful GOP attorney whose father served two terms as Alabama's governor.

Shuler reports on Deep South legal affairs via his Legal Schnauzer blog, whose columns are sometimes widely republished on other progressive sites.

He often breaks stories about ordinary litigants unfairly treated in the courts. Also, he writes about financial corruption involving taxpayer dollars, illicit sex among conspirators and their minions, and cover-ups that are intended to uphold the family values image regarded as especially necessary for election success in his region.

Shuler's most frequent targets are Republicans in the legal and political system. But he has repeatedly pilloried at least two of his state's major Democrats. One was former Congressman and gubernatorial nominee Artur Davis. Another was former U.S. Attorney Douglas Jones, who was co-counsel with Riley in leading a class action that won a $700 million fraud judgment. 

Claud NeilsonRoger ShulerCircuit Judge Claud (sic) Neilson, shown at left in a file photo, presided this week in the sealed case against Shuler.

The handcuffed Shuler, right, was shackled at the ankle and waist. News coverage before the hearing by the local CBS television affiliate and elsewhere angered other participants, according to the defendant’s wife, Carol Shuler.

"They gave him grief over coverage," she told me during a phone interview. "But what do they expect him to do? He's been in jail without bond. The TV station initiated the coverage."

She said she did not know whether it was the judge or plaintiff lawyers -- or all of them -- who denounced her husband because of the news coverage. Her understanding is that her husband remained tightly shackled throughout the hearing

She said her information was from brief phone calls from her husband, who remains jailed and without a lawyer, and from a friend who was able to attend the hearing. Court personnel barred others who tried to observe, she said.

That illustrates the extraordinary level of secrecy pervading the case, which the judge has ordered sealed. Shuler told his wife that he was beaten and MACED by four deputies during the October arrest in the family garage. Neilson is a retired judge who was recruited from Demopolis, a third of the way across the state, to deliver his brand of justice to the litigants.

According to her account:

Neilson threatened to have her arrested even though her husband said he was the one who had written disputed news reports and his wife had no ability to spike them.

"That's your problem," the judge reputedly told Shuler when Shuler said that he had no ability from a jail cell to remove his investigative reports even if he wanted to do so. The judge said he plans to hold Shuler in jail indefinitely and wants Carol Shuler arrested also on a contempt of court charge. Roger Shuler said his wife has never written for the site until receiving a few emergency lessons via phone in order to write short news updates about the case.

"This judge is saying I can't even write about my husband?" Carol Shuler told me in wonderment Nov. 15. "What kind of judge is this? And why did they have to go across the state to get him? They could have gotten a judge from right here."

Carol ShulerCarol Shuler, right, has cowered at home since her husband's arrest in fear that she will be arrested on the same contempt charge stemming from the libel suit, thereby ending the couple’s access to the world.

Bob Riley

The Alabama political establishment has reacted harshly to Roger Shuler's publication of columns alleging a sex scandal involving Robert Riley Jr., the son of a two-term GOP former governor Bob Riley (2003-2011), left.

Former Gov. Don Siegelman (1999-2003) was Alabama's leading Democrat until the Riley political machine helped imprison him on dubious corruption charges. Riley went to the governor's mansion in 2003 when 3,000 electronic votes switched sides in Baldwin County after polls closed on Election Day in 2002with a statewide announcement that Siegelman had won re-election. His daughter Dana told a National Press Club audience that authorities threatened her father even as governor in 2002 that he would never win a recount and would be arrested if he tried to dispute the vote count.

My forthcoming book, Presidential Puppetry, describes how the votes were stolen. Siegelman is now imprisoned in Louisiana as part of a long-term pattern by Alabama judges to keep political targets away from family, supporters and the media, according to multiple defendants. The former governor sent me a column from his prison last week urging support for Shuler.

The column is excerpted below with a hot link. Siegelman praised Shuler as being one of the few Alabama journalists with the courage to fight political corruption led in recent years by the younger Riley in alliance with court officials and Karl Rove. As reported by Shuler, here and elsewhere, Rove and his allies helped transform Alabama's elected judiciary from overwhelmingly Democratic in the 1990s to Republican currently. Rove is shown below left on the cover of his 2010 memoir. In the book, Rove denied any wrongdoing in Alabama or elsewhere regarding use of the courts for political purposes. He specifically denied misconduct in the 2006 political purge of those U.S. attorneys who would not prosecute Democrats on dubious grounds.

In the 1990s, Rove was a consultant for Alabama Republicans along with William Canary, who later became head the Business Council of Alabama and campaign manager for Bob Riley. Canary's wife, Alabama U.S. Attorney Leura Canary led the Montgomery-based office that convicted Siegelman in his second trial before a federal judge who controlled a company receiving $300 million in federal contracts from the Bush administration.

The Obama administration continued the Bush appointee Leura Canary, right, in office well into the spring of 2010. The Obama administration's actions in maintaining dubious Bush-era prosecutions and personnel have long puzzled political observers.

Leura CanaryTo report on such matters ignored by Alabama's Republican-oriented mainstream press and broadcasters, Shuler started his blog in his spare time in 2007 while working at the University of Alabama communications office.

Based on sources this year, Shuler wrote that the younger Riley had an affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke.

Riley and Duke denied the claims, and sued Shuler for libel in July, 2013. The judge took the plaintiffs' side early in the case by ruling in a one-sided hearing that the articles were false. Shuler did not appear at the hearing or present evidence

Neilson ordered Shuler to remove the articles from public view. The judge included Carol Shuler in the command even though the Shulers say she learned how to post items on Roger’s site, Legal Schnauzer, only after his jailing.  

The case illustrates Alabama's return to a former era of police state tactics enforced by one-party rule and virtually ignored by the national media.

In the days of segregation, the dominant Democratic Party backed by such entities at White Citizens Councils and the Ku Klux Klan, used strong-arm police powers to enforce segregation and prevent blacks from voting. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a minister in the state capitol of Montgomery, led campaigns of peaceful protest often disrupted by police and other white violence.  

In the 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that an Alabama police commissioner could not collect a $500,000 damage judgment because of relatively minor errors in a newspaper ad run by civil rights proponents. The judgment led to dismissal of nearly $300 million in similar inflated damage awards across the Deep South against media organizations. The decision thus established the current standard for reporting about public figures, thereby enabling national coverage of the civil rights movement and modern reporting on public figures on all topics.

Alabama courts appear to be disregarding that precedent, among others, by taking a plaintiff’s side so early in a libel case. The order forbidding publication (known as “prior restraint”) and the secret court violate other traditions long established in Alabama and elsewhere.   

Shelby CourthouseShelby County MapShelby County, shown on the map at left, is a generally prosperous white suburb just to the south of Birmingham. Its courthouse is at right in a photo by Roger Shuler.

During the 1960s struggles to overcome segregation, Birmingham Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor unleashed dogs on peaceful protesters who included children. The race hatreds led to the bombing of a black church that killed four children, and ultimately passage of federal civil rights laws by Congress and Supreme Court protections for the media and the public’s right to know.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore brought Neilson out of retirement in order to provide justice as a special judge sitting on the Riley-Duke lawsuit against the Shulers. Moore is the Alabama jurist who defied the U.S. Supreme Court in order to install the Ten Commandments on courthouse property in 2003.

Neilson is well-known in Alabama for his surprise verdict in dismissing corruption charges against former Circuit Judge Herman Thomas, who had been accused of spanking prisoners under his control and demanding homosexual acts in return for promises of leniency.  After a jury acquitted Thomas of some charges and remained deadlocked on others Neilson dismissed remaining charges.

Both Riley, a reputed likely candidate for a congressional seat in 2014, and Duke have denied Shuler's claims in court papers. Their lawyers have failed to respond to my request for comment.

Shelby County has achieved fame nationally among ultra-conservatives by winning a 5-4 Supreme Court decision last June voiding part of the Voting Rights Act. Until the decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the Justice Department was able to provide extra scrutiny on Deep South localities known for strategies to suppress voting on a racial basis.

Terri SewellThe Supreme Court’s activist Republican majority ruled in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts that, in essence, it knew conditions in Southern states better than Congress, which reauthorized the Voting Rights Act. The Republican majority ruled that bigotry in access to polls appeared to be so much less than during the 1960s that Congress violated the constitution by trying to allow extra federal supervision by the Justice Department.

The court pointed to the election of some black officials as evidence that the federal government should not have the power to intervene in historic state’s rights.

In the Deep South, black members of congress are nearly all Democrats from gerrymandered districts that lump blacks together, helping keep nearby districts safely white and Republican. Alabama has just one major Democratic official in federal or state office, Terri Sewell, left, who represents the gerrymandered Seventh District stretching across the Black Belt with slivers to encompass parts of Birmingham and Montgomery.

Riley is rumored to be considering a run for the nearby Sixth District following the retirement of incumbent Republican Spencer Bacchus.

Shelby County authorities were angered by the news coverage afforded the case. My view is that the nation's media and legal professionals have not provided nearly enough coverage or intervention in this case. A few outlets have provided in-depth coverage, a few more have provided news briefs. Most have ignored the situation.

 

Shelby County Collage

I see two next steps. One is for an enterprising columnist to obtain on the record quotations from journalism, free speech and civil liberties organizations about why they have not gotten involved more -- or at all. I have gone to several of my groups without success, as reported in my previous columns. It's probably counterproductive for me to probe my own organizations. But someone should do it.

My next initiative is to make it easier for busy or apathetic professionals to understand the stakes by speaking at the National Press Club and elsewhere about these topics.

The press club forum is at 6:30 p.m. in Washington, DC in the John Peter Zenger Room, which is named for one of the nation's pioneering fighting journalists attacked by authorities. The topic is "The Powers Behind the Presidential Throne" analyzing why elected officials even at the highest levels are beholden in many cases to hidden backers.

During my segment, I'll announce the hardcover launch of my book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama Romney and Their Masters , and the research roots in the kind of corruption so evident in Alabama's courts.

Marta Steele GrassrootsOther speakers include Marta Steele, author of Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: How the People Lost and Won, 2000-2008. A recent reviewer of Puppetry, she will discuss, "The Election Integrity movement's rise and nonstop battle to win back the people's vote."

Also speaking will be longtime Washington civic leader John Edward Hurley, a director of the Justice Integrity Project. Hurley is a former White House correspondent, executive director of the Confederate Memorial Museum, and commander of the American Legion's post based at the National Press Club.

He will draw on more than five decades of Washington experience, including study of Alabama's recent politics, to warn of the danger to society when courts seek to enforce "law" as a technical realm separate from equitable and moral principles. 

Other topics will include reflections on the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, and strategies by thought leaders to confine public discussions to talking points officially approved. Visitors to this site know that our project has been publishing a Readers Guide to the many new books, movies and events regarding the JFK murder.

Next in the series -- and topic for the  the forum Tuesday -- will be a dramatic current example of such censorship. The City of Dallas has tried for many months to restrict access to the assassination site on Nov. 22 to those who support the controversial Warren Commission finding that the murder was by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone.

Please join us at the press club for this no-cost, lively discussion, or to suggest a similar forum soon in your area or via your local media.

 
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Related News Coverage 

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Update:

New York Times, Blogger’s Incarceration Raises First Amendment Questions, Campbell Robertson, Jan. 11, 2014. For over six years, Roger Shuler has hounded figures of the state legal and political establishment on his blog, Legal Schnauzer, a hothouse of furious but often fuzzily sourced allegations of deep corruption and wide-ranging conspiracy. Some of these allegations he has tested in court, having sued his neighbor, his neighbor’s lawyer, his former employer, the Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department, the Alabama State Bar and two county circuit judges, among others. Mostly, he has lost. But even those who longed for his muzzling, and there are many, did not see it coming like this: with Mr. Shuler sitting in jail indefinitely, and now on the list of imprisoned journalists worldwide kept by the Committee to Protect Journalists. There, in the company of jailed reporters in China, Iran and Egypt, is Mr. Shuler, the only person on the list in the Western Hemisphere. A former sports reporter and a former employee in a university’s publications department, 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 and behavior by Mr. Shuler that some of the same experts described as self-defeating posturing, have made for an exceptionally messy test of constitutional law.

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.

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, 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, 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."

Justice Integrity Project, 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.

Atlantic, Karl Rove in a Corner, Joshua Green Nov. 1, 2004.  Karl Rove is at his most formidable when running close races, and his skills would be notable even if he used no extreme methods. But he does use them. His campaign history shows his willingness, when challenged, to employ savage tactics. It is the close races that establish the reputations of great political strategists, and few have ever been closer than the 2000 presidential election. From the tumult of the lengthy recount, the absentee-ballot dispute, the charges of voter fraud, and, ultimately, the Supreme Court decision, George W. Bush emerged victorious by a margin of 537 votes in Florida—enough to elevate him to the presidency, and his chief strategist, Karl Rove, to the status of legend.

Oped News, Imprisoned Former Alabama Gov. Siegelman Backs Jailed Blogger, Denounces Corruption, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 8, 2013. Editor's Note: Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (1999-2003), now imprisoned in Louisiana, sent me at the Justice Integrity Project the guest column below that opposes the jailing of Alabama reporter/blogger Roger Shuler on contempt of court charges arising out of a defamation suit in Shelby County. "Roger Shuler," Siegelman wrote, "has written time and time again exposing Rob Riley, the former governor's son's insidious and sinister connections to money making schemes. Rob Riley, as Shuler told the story, was one of the powers behind the scenes working with Karl Rove and my prosecutor's husband.

Wayne Madsen Report, The Kafka courts of Alabama, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 14, 2013 (Subscription required.) Journalism is now a crime punishable by indefinite jailing in Alabama. Secret courts and trials, star chambers, and illegal detention may be the stuff of a Franz Kafka trial. But in Alabama, the court proceedings against an investigative journalist have reached and surpassed Kafkaesque dimensions.

Shelby Cnty. v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 2612, 186 L. Ed. 2d 651 (Decided June 25, 2013.) The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted to address entrenched racial discrimination in voting, "an insidious and pervasive evil which had been perpetuated in certain parts of our country through unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution." Petitioner Shelby County, in the covered jurisdiction of Alabama, sued the Attorney General in Federal District Court in Washington, D. C., seeking a declaratory judgment that sections 4(b) and 5 are facially unconstitutional, as well as a permanent injunction against their enforcement. The District Court upheld the Act, finding that the evidence before Congress in 2006 was sufficient to justify reauthorizing § 5 and continuing § 4(b)'s coverage formula. The D. C. Circuit affirmed. After surveying the evidence in the record, that court accepted Congress's conclusion that § 2 litigation remained inadequate in the covered jurisdictions to protect the rights of minority voters, that § 5 was therefore still necessary, and that the coverage formula continued to pass constitutional muster. Held: Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional; its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to pre-clearance. [Citations omitted.]

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.

Alyona MinkovskiLegal 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, left, 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.

Huffington Post, Life In Prison For A Grain Of Cocaine: The Rise Of Extreme Sentences, Saki Knafo and Ryan Reilly, Nov. 12, 2013. These 32 People Are Spending Their Lives In Prison For Nonviolent Crimes 

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. 

OpEd News, Review: Andrew Kreig, "Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney, and Their Masters," Marta Steele, Nov. 10, 2013. The section on Reform Resources directs us all how to cut the puppet strings and return to life, like Pinocchio, and full awareness of how self-propulsion in positive directions will benefit all of us and not just a flagrant few who know less about governing and more about self-destruction. They are human nature on steroids. Andrew Kreig will detox society with his solutions.  Put down this article and read the book. And then get to work. That's what democracy is about -- remember?

Justice Integrity Project, Self-Censorship In JFK TV Treatments Duplicates Corporate Print Media's Apathy, Cowardice, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 10, 2013. Hardly any of this fall's crop of television shows about President Kennedy are new or otherwise interesting enough to watch, according to a comprehensive survey Nov. 8 by the Washington Post's TV critic Hank Stuever. Stuever's survey contains clues, however, that he and his newspaper cannot be trusted on this survey.

Fox News, Thomas Trial: Judge Neilson speaks out, Liz Nelson Kuy, Nov. 4, 2009. After a week and a half of silence Claud Neilson, presiding judge in the trial of former Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Herman Thomas, speaks out about his controversial ruling in the case. Judge Neilson acquitted Thomas after a jury of seven women and five men couldn't agree on an overall verdict. Jurors found Thomas not guilty on seven counts, including sexual abuse, sodomy and assault. It left 14 undecided counts, including attempted sodomy. Once the jury was dismissed, Judge Neilson ruled not guilty on the remaining 14. Jurors wound up deliberating for three days to come up with their partial verdict.

Herman ThomasAP via Huffington Post, Herman Thomas, Ex-Ala. Judge, Accused Of Trading Sex For Leniency, Phillip Rawls, Oct. 4, 2013. Herman Thomas had an enviable political record as a black Democrat elected and re-elected in a county overwhelmingly white and increasingly Republican. The respected circuit judge once was the Democratic Party's choice to be the first black federal judge in south Alabama. Then his career collapsed under allegations that he brought inmates to his office and spanked them with a paddle. Later, an indictment accused him of sexually abusing male inmates in exchange for leniency. The trial on charges of sodomy, kidnapping, sex abuse, extortion, assault and ethics violations is set to start Monday. Thomas, who was known for wearing distinctive bow ties, stepped down from the bench in 2007 after the allegations of paddling surfaced and just ahead of a judicial ethics trial that could have forced him out of office. He was indicted on the more-serious charges this past spring by a Mobile County grand jury. If convicted of the most serious charges – sodomy and kidnapping – he faces from 20 years to life in prison. 

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.

Democratic Underground, Gulag Justice? Alabama Blogger Jailed in Secretive Scandal, Johnny Canuck, Nov. 13, 2013. In a case troubling to free speech advocates, an Alabama journalist who blogged about allegations of a sordid affair between a powerful Republican scion and a lobbyist has been arrested and now sits in jail on contempt charges. The case is rooted in Shuler’s allegations of an affair in about 2006 between a scion of one of Alabama’s elite political families, Robert Riley, Jr., and Liberty Duke, a registered lobbyist in Alabama. Riley is a Birmingham lawyer and son of Bob Riley, a nationally prominent Republican who served as governor of Alabama from 2002 to 2010. Shuler reported on his “Legal Schnauzer” blog that Duke got pregnant, and “Republican insiders” paid her as much as $300,000 to have an abortion and to “stay quiet on the subject.” Both Riley and Duke were married with children at the time of the alleged affair, though Duke was soon sued for divorce by her husband. In addition to the First Amendment ramifications, the case has implications beyond state borders.

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!” To begin with, Shuler was arrested at his home in Shelby County on Oct. 23 and his mugshot shows him with a black, swollen eye. A retired judge was brought out of moth balls and charged Shuler with contempt of court. The judge sealed the court record at Rob Riley’s request and ordered Shuler to take down all blogs pertaining to the alleged “family values” trio. Of course, Shuler can’t do that from jail. “That’s your problem,” the judge is alleged to have told Shuler in open court. Thus, Roger Shuler could be in jail in Shelby County until the cows come home. What’s happened to Shuler is called “prior restraint” and it’s unconstitutional according to the U.S. Supreme Court. After years of watching “Perry Mason,” here’s how I think the case should have been handled. Rob Riley brings a defamation lawsuit against Roger Shuler. Everybody involved swears to tell the truth and nothing but the truth and the court decides, after hearing everyone’s testimony, if Shuler defamed Riley and the others. (Seriously, it’s legally difficult to defame a politician for obvious reasons.) If Shuler is found guilty, then he’s ordered to take down the blogs and suffers whatever other reprisals the court decides.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

New York Times, Alabama Judges Retain the Right to Override Juries in Capital Sentencing, Adam Liptak, Nov 18, 2013. The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a challenge to an unusual Alabama capital-sentencing practice that has sent 95 defendants to death row despite jury determinations calling for life sentences. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined for the most part by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, issued a 17-page dissent of the court’s refusal to hear the case. Alabama now stands alone, she said, in routinely allowing judges to override determinations from capital juries calling for leniency. The case, Woodward v. Alabama, No. 13-5380, concerned Mario D. Woodward, who was convicted of killing Keith Houts, a police officer. By an 8-to-4 vote, the jury recommended a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The trial judge rejected the recommendation and condemned Mr. Woodward to death.

Mother Jones, Alabama Man Won't Serve Prison Time for Raping 14-Year-Old, Molly Redden, Nov. 14, 2013. Austin Smith Clem raped a teenager three times. His punishment: supervision and probation. An Alabama man convicted of raping a teenage girl will serve no prison time. On Wednesday, a judge in Athens, Alabama, ruled that the rapist will be punished by serving two years in a program aimed at nonviolent criminals and three years of probation. In September, a jury in Limestone County, in north central Alabama, found Austin Smith Clem, 25, guilty of raping Courtney Andrews, a teenage acquaintance and his then-neighbor, three times—twice when she was 14, and again when was she was 18. Clem's defense attorney did not call any witnesses at trial, according to AL.com. After less than two hours of deliberation, the jury returned guilty verdicts against Clem on one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape. According to Clem's sentencing order, which Brian Jones, the Limestone County district attorney, provided to Mother Jones, Clem will serve the first half of his sentence under the supervision of the Limestone County community corrections program. The program is aimed at "redirecting the lives" of nonviolent, low-level offenders who are "likely to maintain a productive and law-abiding life as a result of accountability, guidance and direction to services they need," according to the program's website.

Forbes, David Koch And The WGBH Controversy: Pledging Allegiance To The Flag Of The Day, Harvey Silverglate, Nov. 15, 2013. Despite our constitutionally guaranteed liberties, we Americans have always suffered pressure to conform to the perceived truths of the day. In 1952 the late playwright Lillian Hellman famously refused to inform on her friends and peers before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, saying, “I cannot and will not cut my conscience  A contretemps currently taking place at Boston’s public broadcasting network WGBH is one of the more recent examples of pressure applied by interest groups to enforce ideological conformity. This latest such controversy involves billionaire industrialist and philanthropist David Koch, who sits on the WGBH board. Climate change activists are calling for his dismissal from that post. Without any evidence that Koch – who donates generously to the station – has attempted to influence, much less actually influenced and corrupted the network’s programming, these voices believe that he has no place serving as a board member on account of his minority-held views on the nature of climate shift. A loud and very public campaign, including picket lines outside of the network’s headquarters in Boston, is taking place.  In my recent piece for Forbes.com, I explain the stunted logic of this kind of campaign. Citing Justice Robert Jackson’s famous and moving 1943 Supreme Court opinion in the West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette case, I remind those intolerant of Koch’s role in the public arena that unpopular opinions must be protected against the majority-held or “official” view of the day, particularly with regards to issues as important to all of us as the health of our planet.

Huffington Post, Jeremy Hammond Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison, Matt Sledge and Alyona Minkovski, Nov. 15, 2013. Convicted hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for stealing internal emails from the global intelligence firm Stratfor. Shuffling into courtroom with long, wavy hair and a wide smile, Hammond shouted "what's up, my brothers" to a courtroom packed with scores of supporters. When it was his turn to speak to the court, he claimed in a defiant sentencing statement that his acts were meant to expose the truth and that he hacked foreign government.

FireDogLake, Obama Basically Admits He Never Really Understood His Own Health Care Law, Jon Walker, Nov. 14, 2013. President Obama delivered a very apologetic presser today on the problems with the Affordable Care Act, but the most remarkable moment was when Obama basically admitted he never really understood how his signature law would actually work. He claims to have only realized in the past few weeks that buying insurance on an exchange is an inherently complicated and often confusing process. One of Obama’s big promises in selling his law to the public was that it would make buying insurance insanely easy. It is a promise he repeated all the time and seemed to really believe.