Saturday, October 3, 2009

Drug Sentence of Clay County Judge's Son Called Into Question

Anniston Star

An Alabama drug legalization advocate is calling into question the 2008 drug possession sentence of a man who happens to be the son of a Clay County judge.

John Alexander Rochester, 23, of Ashland, was arrested March 1, 2008, in Ashland City Park. Rochester, who was 21 at the time, and a 19-year-old man were taken into custody, police said, after they were found to be in possession of large amounts of powdered and crack cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy pills and other drug paraphernalia.

The police report said Rochester claimed ownership of the drugs at the time of his arrest, telling the arresting officer the prices he charged for various quantities of each drug.

Rochester, the son of Clay County Circuit Judge John E. Rochester, was released on bond after serving two and a half weeks in jail.

Rochester’s case was sent to a grand jury hearing in March 2008. According to court documents, the grand jury returned an indictment charging Rochester with possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Rochester pleaded guilty to all three counts on April 17, 2008. Sentencing was overseen by retired Talladega County Circuit Judge Jerry L. Fielding.

Rochester was given a suspended five-year jail sentence, five years probation, a $5,600 fine and was ordered to complete a drug rehabilitation program in Mississippi.

Loretta Nall, a drug legalization advocate and 2006 Libertarian Party candidate for governor of Alabama, said she thinks Rochester was given a lighter sentence because his father is a judge.

“If you look at other cases in Clay County with drugs, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that the grand jury would come back with this,” she said. “I expect the judicial system to be fair.”

A criminal law expert, however, said the case likely was given to a grand jury and a judge from a neighboring county in an effort to ensure fairness.

“When you have someone prominent like this, you always have a question of whether or not this was given something special,” said Floyd Feeney, law professor at the University of California, Davis. “But once you get to sentencing, because there is a lot of transparency to that, the fact that you have a judge from another county (presiding) provides some assurance that this is being handled in an even-handed manner.”

Feeney said sentencing in drug offenses sometimes varies from case to case because of the intent behind sentencing.

“Sentencing has a number of different goals. One goal is to deter this individual from committing new drug offenses,” Feeney said. “Even though there are a lot of drugs involved here, what you’d like to do is to get this person into a successful, productive life.”

Nall said she was surprised by the sentence because “Judge Rochester has been notorious for harsh sentences.”

“I’ve seen so many people go to prison under him, and suddenly jail is not good enough for his son,” she said.

Reached by phone Friday, theyoungerRochesterdeclined to comment. Attempts to reach Judge Rochester were unsuccessful.

Contact Staff writer Whit McGee 256-235-3561
Thanks to the Anniston Star for covering this story. I have been trying for over a year to get them to cover what the Clay Times Journal would not. Granted they could have gone into a great deal more detail...but it's a start.

A couple of things that need to be corrected in this article are that the indictment wasn't handed down in this case until March of 2009...not 2008 and the Grand Jury that returned the indictment was a Clay County Grand Jury and not a Talladega Grand jury, according to the case file that I have. And I must say that a Clay County Grand Jury would indict a ham sandwich, so it is shocking that they reduced the charges Alex Rochester was facing before returning the indictment. Anyone else caught with that many drugs in the Ashland City Park, of all places, would have been recommended for the death penalty. I can just hear D.A. Freddy Thompson saying, "He was dealing drugs at the park where our children play. What if he had dropped some Extacy and some kid had picked it up and eaten it and then died?" Anyone but Rochester's kid would have received a very long prison sentence for this crime. Anyone else would have been called a kingpin and the trumpets would be blaring that the law got another drug dealer targeting kids at the park off the street.

I also find it utterly outrageous that this reporter had to go all the way to California to find and 'expert' on the criminal justice system in Alabama. Is there anyone who could possibly know less about how fucked up things are here than a law professor from completely across the country? Were there no law or criminal justice experts at the University of Alabama or Jacksonville State that he could have called? While the law professor is correct that the goal of sentencing is to deter a repeat offense and the hope is that the offender will begin to lead a successful, productive life, most people arrested in Alabama for that amount of drugs, who aren't related to a judge, are never offered the chance at a successful, productive life because they are sent to rot for decades in an Alabama prison. I challenge anyone reading this to find me one case in either Clay County or Talladega County Alabama where the accused was found with 1100 Extacy pills, 32 grams of cocaine, prescription drugs (usually folks caught with prescription drugs are charged for each pill they possess without a prescription) and a gallon bag of marijuana that was given a bond low enough to where they could get out. I'd also like to see a case where someone charged with trafficking was allowed to go to treatment. Traffickers aren't even eligible for drug court in Alabama.

I wish this article had gone into more detail about the amount of drugs Alex Rochester was caught with. Overall it's a start.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Transcript of Alex Rochester's Arrest Report

Arresting Officer W.E. Cooper
Assisting Officer Cory Ligon

I was patrolling the area around the park at approximately 12:56 a.m. I noticed a vehicle parked in the parking lot. The vehicle was running and had two white male occupants. I noticed the strong smell of marihuana coming from the vehicle. Both occupants were extremely hard to wake up. I asked the front seat occupant for identification. He told me his name was John Alexander Rochester. He handed me his passport for identification. While he was looking for his passport he pulled a pipe out of his pocket. I had Mr. Rochester step out of the vehicle. While still in the vehicle he also pulled out a large amount of cash. While I patted him down outside the vehicle I removed the pipe and asked Mr. Rochester where the drugs were. He pointed to the center console and said there. I found a large cocaine rock in a plastic baggie. Also when looking in and around the center console I found one vial of powder cocaine and a small baggie of marihuana. Mr. Rochester also had another baggie of rock cocaine in his pocket. I placed Mr. Rochester in hand cuffs and sat him down on the ground. I also found out that Mr. Rochester had two outstanding warrants.

I got _________ out of the vehicle. He was covered up with a black jacket. I asked who owned the jacket. Mr. _______ claimed the jacket. In the front pocket of the jacket I found a small baggie containing 26 blue pills identified as Xanax. Mr. _____ was placed in hand cuffs and sat on the ground. All those actions took place after midnight. The park closes at 10 p.m.

Upon search of the vehicle we found a gift bag containing a 1 gallon bag of marijuana and four smaller bags of marijuana. Also in the gift bag was a black plastic bag containing 11 clear plastic bags of pills. These pills were identified as Extacy. Approximately 1100 pills. Bishop Wrecker was called to the scene and transported the vehicle to the sheriff's impound lot at the jail.

I transported Mr. Rochester to the Ashland Police Department. Deputy Cory Ligon transported Mr. _____ to the Ashland Police Department. Upon arrival at the police department Mr. Rochester was notified of his rights and signed a waiver. Mr. Rochester told me that he had fronted the Xanax to Mr. _____. I said fronted? He said yes he would pay me for them later. He stated that he had bought the Extacy tablets two weeks ago and sold them for $10 a pill. He stated he had purchased 2500 pills. He stated that it was bought in Atlanta. I asked about the marijuana. He stated that it was bought in Atlanta the previous day. He said he sold it for $60 a quarter bag. He stated that he would give up the manufacturer and distributor in Atlanta if the feds would take considerable time off his sentence.

He had 8 Klonopin .5 in his possession. He stated that he bought them for $4 a pill and sold them for $6 or $7 a pill. He also had 4 nitroglycerin tablets. I asked him what they were for. He stated in case anyone overdosed on the cocaine.

Also we found 2 sets of digital scales, one shaker, one pack of JOB 1.5 rolling papers, two straws were also found. One pack of Swisher Sweet Cigarillos, several packets of flavored EZ Roll tubes. One partially smoked blunt was found in the ashtray. One bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whiskey was also found in the vehicle. Mr. Rochester made his statement and was booked on several felony charges and two misdemeanor charges. Mr. Rochester had $1149 on his person at the time of his arrest. It was counted in front of Mr. Rochester and verified. All items placed in evidence.

AL Judge's Drug Dealing Son , Alex Rochester, Walks Free

Last year I brought my readers the story of John Alexander Rochester who is the son of hanging Judge John Rochester of Alabama's 41st Circuit Court.

To refresh everyone's memory young Mr. Alex Rochester was busted in the Ashland City Park on March 1, 2008 and charged with trafficking drugs. The drugs he was charged with trafficking are as follows; Cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, ecstacy, meth and xanax.

The last we heard Alex Rochester had been ferried away, under his mothers skirts, to a posh treatment center called The Arbor where he was to remain for a year. Young Rochester's MySpace page states that he is currently in college. His Facebook page doesn't say much but does have a photo of him.

Yesterday I was able to come by John Alexander Rochester's case file and, I hate to tell you, but what I predicted would happen has happened. No surprise really. Regular working folks kids go to prison for years and years on charges like this. The Judge's son gets off scot free.

John Alexander Rochester was allowed to plea all of the trafficking charges down to simple possession charges and he received five years probation. He is walking around free. The arrest report states that he and his friend were passed out at the Ashland City Park at 12:56 a.m. The arresting officer smelled marijuana and conducted a search. While Alex Rochester was attempting to pull his passport out of his pocket a pipe fell out. After the massive amounts of drugs were found Alex Rochester stated according to the police report that "He had bought the drugs in Atlanta and that he would give up the name of the supplier if the fed's would take considerable time off his sentence." Alex Rochester already had two warrants out for his arrest at the time of this arrest. Apparently Daddy never taught him to keep his mouth shut when the cops show up because Alex Rochester squealed like a little pig.

Here is what the case file says about the amount of drugs he was arrested with. You better sit down.

1. Two baggies, envelope, one vial, crack cocaine, powder cocaine Total: 32 grams (1 ounce give or take)
2. 1 gallon bag containing marijuana
3. 5 sandwich baggies containing marijuana. 4 were corners of bags packaged for resale.
4. 1100 Extacy pills in 11 baggies
5. 2 straws, 2 rolled up dollar bills and two pipes.
6. 26 Xanax pills

I'd bet my right arm that NEVER in the history of Alabama has anyone caught with that amount of drugs been allowed to plea down trafficking charges (clearly he was trafficking) to simple possession. And remember...all of those charges carried an additional 3 year mandatory minimum because the arrest occurred withing three miles of a school, church, day care center and public housing facilities. Hell, it happened in the Ashland City Park where all the little children play on the mini-monster trucks and monkey bars. I also wonder how many people are in jail or prison because they bought drugs from Alex Rochester and got caught?

Anyone else would have had bonds in the millions of dollars, had their face plastered all over the front page of the newspaper and would be serving decades in an Alabama prison. In this case, because Alex Rochester's daddy is a judge, he is treated like the fortunate son, given a slap on the wrist and set free. The Clay Times Journal printed only the police blotter when he was arrested and there has to date been absolutely no additional coverage of this major story in the paper.

The court system and the media have failed the citizens of those counties and really all the citizens of the State of Alabama. We expect fairness in our judicial system. Clearly our system has been subverted and the rules thrown out the window because it was a judge's son caught red handed TRAFFICKING HUGE AMOUNTS OF DRUGS.

However, I have a plan to make sure the majority of the citizens of Clay County and Coosa County are made aware of what has happened. I won't say what that plan is because I want it to be a really nasty surprise for the Rochester family. Don't want to spoil the anticipation for them.

Do stay tuned and please DIGG THIS

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More from the Rochester Peanut Gallery

I love rattling folks cages....especially when the folks in question are powerful judges or attorney generals. Judging from the responses the Rochester Peanut gallery is leaving on this blog and my other blog I'd say I've rattled them so hard their teeth are about to fall out. Here is the latest comment....peanut gallery in bold/italics and mine follow.

Just to let you know- so you don't have to take credit for anything. I believe that I told you that George and the DA would be stepping down.

Nonsense. Prove that you told me or my readers that. I remember a comment on my other blog where some anonymous person (perhaps it was you) said Judge Simpson DID step down and DID NOT handle the bond hearing. Which was a lie. I have the paperwork to prove it. The DA didn't step aside til things started getting a little hot and not until after I began talking about it on the radio.

Believe me it had nothing to do with your letter writing and calling campaign- that's really not an effective way of handling things anymore.

Sure, sure. Except that most people are smart enough to figure out that if the Judge and D.A. were going to do the right thing and step aside then they would have done it at the beginning and never handled the bond hearing. That they didn't do it until after I started talking about this case tells everyone reading this blog and following this story all they need to know about what happened and why.

As to whether or not calling and writing is an effective way to handle things this day and time....well it was obviously effective for this purpose because it got you scurrying around like a rat trying to cover your ass.

Especially when it comes from a mentally unstable, druggie, that complains about everything and everybody.

Now that's about the pot calling the kettle black ain't it? I admit an affinity for weed and make no bones about it. I also advocate for changes in the drug laws that, if implemented, would have prevented John ALexander Rochester from being arrested in the first place. If that makes me a 'druggie' then what does trafficking meth, trafficking cocaine, pills and marijuana make John Alexander Rochester? And you for supporting his free ride through the legal system?

Mentally unstable? How so? I'm obviously mentally stable enough to bust your ass for tinkering with my justice system.

Complains about everything and everybody? Oh, you mean since I am not a Democrat or Republican and go after both instead of towing a party line that I complain about everybody? You'd be right about that. You are all fair game in my book and at least I am consistent.

Oh yeah, personal attacks (mentally unstable druggie) only show everyone that you have no real argument or defense for your actions.

It's hard to take you serious anymore. It's like the little boy that cried wolf. You've cried wolf too many times. Most people around the state think you're a joke.

Where and when have I cried wolf before and not been vindicated? Please provide some examples with documentation. Further....there are just over 4 million people in this state...your statement implies that you have talked to ALL OF THEM and that, in your opinion, they think I am a joke. We all know that cannot be true. If you want people to believe you then you have to post things that remotely resemble HONEST.

Alex's trial is coming up. A new judge will take over. Alex will plead to something, hopefully he will serve no time to 5 years because this is his first offense. He's been in rehab for 6 months now with limited privileges and drug tested weekly.

It is my understanding that this is not his first offense. And, it must be really nice to spend six months in treatment when you are charged with drug trafficking. It is unheard of in anyone elses case that they are granted bonds as low as John Alexander Rochester was for the same offenses. Ahhh the elite and priviliged. Must be nice. You should tell JAR to enjoy the comforts of treatment while he can....prison won't be nearly as posh and gentle.

Judge Rochester will be retiring in a year to two years- so don't think you're running him off.

Good. One less corrupt, holier-than-thou, asshole on the bench. Not that I have much faith that his replacement will be any better. Further...Judge Rochester might want to consider moving that retirement date up a bit further....else he will leave the bench with some nasty black smudges on his record.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

D.A. in John Alexander Rochester Case Steps Aside

I got word last night from a source close to the case that Clay County District Attorney Freddy Thompson has recused himself from prosecuting the John Alexander Rochester drug trafficking case. The Alabama Attorney General's Office has now taken over.

I don't know if it had anything to do with my publicizing this case so heavily, but I like to think it did and I feel like it did. If the D.A. had wanted to do the right thing then he would have stepped aside at the preliminary level and would not have been the DA at the bond hearing. That he waited until after the heat was on to step aside tells me about all I need to know.

I understand Rod Giddens, of neighboring Talladega County, will be representing John Alexander Rochester and that the D.A. prosecuting the case and the judge hearing the case will be chosen by the Attorney General's office.

I mailed the judicial inquiry complaint against Judge George C. Simpson last week and am waiting for word from them as to what they plan to do. I'll keep you all posted on the outcome. I am currently working on one against Judge John Rochester because, according to the Canon of Ethics he is responsible for making sure everyone in his court follows the law and the Canon of Ethics. Ultimately it was his duty to make Simpson step aside and he didn't do that.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Loretta Nall on the Larry Barton Show

This past Sunday morning I was a guest on "In the Interest of the People" with former mayor of Talladega, Larry Barton and co-host Benny Green. This is a neat one because it is a gospel radio station and the opening and closing music harkens back to a time before I was born. I'm not real sure but the opening song "Man from Galilee" sounds like the Carter Family. Neat stuff.

In this show we talk about the Troy King rumors, my run for governor, the failure of drug policy, the John Alexander Rochester case and my future political ambitions.

I will be a guest on the show again tonight from 7-8 p.m. If you are in the Talladega area and can pick up 89.7 FM or 1230 AM then tune in.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Alabama Judicial System Gets a D+ in Judicial Ethics

They really should have gotten an F- in judicial ethics. Case and point.

News staff writer
Birmingham News

Alabama's system of enforcing judicial ethics received poor marks in a report card recently issued by the national watchdog group HALT.

HALT, or Help Abolish Legal Tyranny, gave Alabama an overall grade of D+ and ranked the state 38th in its 2008 Judicial Accountability Report Card.

The Washington-based legal reform group issued failing grades for not requiring judges to publicly disclose potential financial conflicts and for putting few limits on receiving gifts.

HALT said the report was the first comprehensive nationwide study of systems used by states to police judicial ethics. Alabama was one of 16 state and federal jurisdictions with overall grades below C.

The survey said the procedures and investigations by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission are not transparent enough, and the system lacks meaningful sanctions.

"Alabama's system of judicial oversight gives too many judges a free pass," Suzanne M. Blonder, HALT's senior counsel, said in a statement. "We hope that Alabama's chief judicial officers will work to transform a mechanism marred by secrecy into a system dedicated to upholding the integrity of the judiciary."

Jenny Garrett, executive director of the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, said she strongly disagreed with HALT's assessments and Blonder's comments.

"Alabama has always been considered to be in the forefront of judicial ethics," she said. "This commission is very diligent in following the rules of procedures promulgated by the Alabama Supreme Court and the state Constitution."

The commission, however, believes some of the rules it must follow have hurt the system's integrity, Garrett said.

Under the leadership of then-Chief Justice Roy Moore, the state's high court changed rules in 2001, allowing accused judges to receive copies of complaints against them. The information included the name of the person who filed the complaint.

"Our filings of complaints dropped in half," Garrett said. The most drastic drop was in complaints by lawyers, she said.

A court committee is now considering restoring complainant confidentiality.

Alabama's Judicial Inquiry Commission receives and investigates complaints filed against judges and justices, and recommends whether formal charges should be filed.
Those charges are considered by a nine-member Court of the Judiciary, which can suspend, remove or otherwise censure a judge.

One of the court's best-known decisions was when it ousted Moore as chief justice in 2003 for defying a federal judge's order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the Supreme Court building in Montgomery.

Praise, criticism:

HALT gave Alabama a high mark for what the group called "consumer friendliness" because the state does not ban people from speaking publicly about complaints they file against judges.

But HALT criticized the Judicial Inquiry Commission because its Web site does not have complaint forms to download.

Garrett agreed a downloadable form was needed, and said a Web site update is in the works. She said all information a complainant needs to know is listed online, mostly in the commission's annual reports.

Other issues cited by HALT include the fact that the commission does not release information about complaints until it files formal charges.

HALT gave Alabama a high mark for what the group called "consumer friendliness" because the state does not ban people from speaking publicly about complaints they file against judges.

Huh? In the letter the Judicial Inquiry Commission sent me reporting that they had taken appropriate action against Judge Kim Taylor they forbade me from discussing it saying it was confidential information. I completely ignored their rules on that one. If a judge does wrong and gets sanctioned for it and it is a case that involves me then you can bet you ass that I'm a tell it!! I'm a tell it all!!

Here is another way that the judicial inquiry commission sucks....they refuse to tell you what action they took against a judge. I feel if I file a complaint and it is acted upon in my favor then I have a right to know what action was taken. How come the judge, who is obviously guilty of wrong doing gets to hide behind this cloak of secrecy? If we regular citizens get caught doing something wrong and are subsequently convicted of it our punishments are broadcast all over the media and our communities. It should be no different for those whose task it is to 'judge us'.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Comparison Bonds in the Rochester Case

I was able to come by five more case action summaries for drug defendants in George C. Simpson's courtroom during the same time frame for John Alexander Rochester. Judge Simpson is the judge who set the bonds in the case. There are some whopping disparities. Check this out.

The bond schedule sets the bond for drug trafficking anywhere from $5,000 to $1,500,000. Class A felony bonds range from $10,000 to $60,000, Class B felony bonds range from $5,000 to $30,000 and Class C felony bonds range from $2500 to $15,000. Class A Misdemeanor bonds range from $300 to $6,000.

Regular Citizens

Charge - Unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance Second Degree - Bond $30,000 Class B Felony (This bond is the maximum)

Charge - Unlawful distribution of a controlled substance - Bond $30,000 Class B Felony (This bond is the maximum)

Charge - Unlawful distribution of a controlled substance - Bond $100,000 Class B Felony (This bond is $70,000 more than the maximum on the bond schedule)

Charge - Unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance - Bond $50,000 Class B Felony (This bond is $20,000 more than what the bond schedule says it should be at the highest)

Charge - Possession of a controlled substance - Bond $30,000 Class C Felony (This bond is twice what the schedule says it should be at the highest)

Compare to the bonds that John Alexander Rochester received from Judge Simpson

John Alexander Rochester - Judges Son

Charge - possession of Methyl Amphetamine - Bond $20,000, Class C Felony ($5,000 more than the bond schedule maximum)

Charge - possession of drug paraphernalia - Bond $5,000, Class A Misdemeanor(except it was within three miles of a school and public housing)(Near the maximum in bond schedule)

Charge - distribution of a controlled substance - Bond $15,000, (the other two people charged with this crime had bonds of $30,000 and $100,000) Class B felony (Bond set in the middle of range)

Charge - possession of a controlled substance - Bond $15,000, Class C Felony
This fine is the maximum on the schedule but still only half of what other defendants charged with the same offense had to pay. Why were others charged double?

Charge - 1st degree possession of marijuana - Bond $10,000, Class C Felony Less than the maximum bond by $5,000

Charge - trafficking cocaine - Bond $20,000. Class A Felony Now this one could have been considered drug trafficking and the bond could have been set up to 1.5 million dollars, but it looks like the judge went for the Class A Felony bond and not the drug trafficking bond.

In at least two cases John Alexander Rochester's bond was half (or less)what other people charged with the same crime had to pay. In most of the other cases the fines are way higher than what the bond schedule says they should be. That makes this even more disgusting because the Rochester's have plenty of money while the other folks don't. The Rochester's could pay almost any bond amount and not be hurt too bad financially by it....but these other, common, regular citizens, who probably make barely above minimum wage working at Tyson or Piggly Wiggly or Bill's Dollar Store, will go broke trying to scrape up enough money to get out.

Yesterday I mentioned that John Alexander Rochester, should have enhancements added to his sentence because he was within a three mile radius of the schools and many public housing complexes. Ashland is tiny. Just about everything in it is in a three mile radius. Here are the parts of the Alabama Code that deal with sales within a three mile radius.

Distribution within three miles of a school 5 year enhancement with no provision for probation
Distribution within three miles of public housing 5 year enhancement with no provision for probation aside
Use of Drug paraphernalia within three miles of public housing Subject to forfeiture

Here are the sections of the Alabama Code that deal with mandatory minimums.

Trafficking in marijuana, cocaine, meth

Sentences not to be deferred or reduced (unless the prosecutor asks for it to be or the defendant narcs out his connections, or attends treatment and pays his/her fines and court costs)

Now, I can already picture Fred Thompson, the D.A., asking for a sentence reduction for JAR and it being granted by Judge Simpson because John Alexander Rochester was able to pay his way out. Yep...theres actually a provision for folks who have money.
I don't know how the enhancements will affect this case or the possibility of the prosecutor asking for a reduction in sentence. If anyone out there knows please post the answer or email me.

This is so VILE! There ought not be two sets of rules in our judicial system. This case clearly shows that we do, in fact, have two sets of rules and that the main rule is you can have exactly as much justice as you can afford.