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.








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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.




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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.

video

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.


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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.


ERIC VELASCO
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.
v
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'.





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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.





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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Told You So

A few months ago I posted about Circuit Court Judge John Rochester's son, John Alexander Rochester, getting busted for trafficking narcotics in Ashland, AL. I also posted some background on Judge Rochester's history of harsh sentences for drug offenders in the past.

I predicted, however, that his son, John Alexander Rochester, would be whisked away to treatment under the cover of darkness and we'd never hear about this case again.

And I was right. On March 21, of this year John Alexander Rochester was bonded out of the Clay County jail by his mother, Linda Rochester and secreted away to a treatment center in Mississippi.

Here are the comments made on one of the posts

"Okay folks, I want you to know this much. John was signed out of the Clay county jail by someone who appeared to be his mother.

The bond amounts were VERY SMALL concerning the charges. For the Distribution of Cocaine and Meth, he had $20,000 bonds- POSTED by one person. Not the way it usually goes. When a bond is posted, it is supposed to have TWO signers, and the property must be worth double what the bond is, liens are counted, and you can only have four bonds signed out at one time. There were at least five charges to my recollection.

People with the same charges have had much larger bonds. Someone accused of not registering as a sex offender got a bond that size.

I am having to go anonymous here because if it is known that I leaked this out, I might make someone angry at me and loose my job.

Don't take my word for it. Demand the public record. You will see it's true.

A few days ago, I heard him order a bonding company loose their license, because they did not come to court, and were not present for what is called a forfeiture case.

I heard later that the company's notice was sent out with only 2 business days notice, and that they sent it to the wrong address.

The law is very clear, a bonding company has 30 days to pay a forfeiture. I was very shocked. They just put someone out of business because of their own screw up, and we wonder why businesses won't come here.

I happen to like that bonding company. They didn't rip people off and only charged ten percent. They came every time they had been called, and were very professionial. I talked to the owner, who told me he had been a bail bondsman for 7 years that he was still searching vigorously for the defendant who failed to appear, and he was very distraught over the situation because his court date for the final forfeiture was set way too early.

It's a shame, I also heard that Judge Rochester had never done that before, and had given Grover Poole bonding over a year to pay a bond, and never revoked them.

Special treatment? Favoritism? You decide."


And another...


John was released on March 21, 2008 on at least 6 different charges. The person who claimed not to be trying to get him out is obviously a liar themselves.

Linda Rochester posted property bonds with her name only on each one as the property holder.

For your information, the Sherrif can allow someone to do that if they so desire. Of course, if you are poor, and have no friends in high places, the jail will require the two property owners. Only the Sherrif or Judge can over rule that.

Either way, I heard that this young man was caught with meth, pot, pills, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia. Serious charges, yes, but he doesn't need help. It sounds like he needs a legal job.
He was a dealer not a user. So what's to help him?

Why would anyone not want him to go to jail for what he was doing? Selling drugs is a crime. The law is the law. Uphold it, or fight for change if you disagree, but in the meantime, you must obey the law. No one is above it.

Another Anonymous


So, on March 21 John Alexander Rochester was released on property bonds totaling $20,000. Usually bonds for narcotics trafficking reach into the hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions. Only one person, his mother, signed the property bonds and that is not the way it is usually done.

Here is what I want to know.

Who set the bond?

What judge heard the bond case?

Was this done in Clay County?

I'll take a stab at my own questions. The answer to 1 & 2 is most likely Judge George Simpson, a real close friend of Judge John Rochester, who also has a son named Luke who used to stay in trouble with drugs all the time when we were in high school. I guess ole George owed Rochester one since Rochester used to handle his son with kid gloves.

I think the answer to my second question is YES, it probably was done in Clay County which screams to be investigated. It should not have been done in Clay County because of the incestuous nature of the criminal justice system. The judges are friends and have been giving each others kids free rides on drug charges for YEARS. It couldn't have been a fair hearing. Couldn't have been. It should have been moved to a different county or a Judge from a different county should have been brought in to handle this case.

But, no, the rich and powerful have a different set of rules by which they live. Us poor folks get fu**ed, to put it bluntly. Our daddies aren't judges in a small town. We don't have powerful connections.

I tell you what though....today I am going to ask the Judicial Inquiry Commission to open an investigation into this matter. I am SICK TO DEATH of preferential treatment being given to those who have money and power. FORGET THAT! If Judge Rochester can sentence poor folks to prison for committing lesser crimes than his boy then, by god, his boy can do some hard time. This was John Alexander Rochester's second offense involving drugs. He should be in jail like everyone else.

Oh yeah, I heard Senator Jabo Wagoner's son was involved in a drunk driving accident a short time ago in Walker County and the driver of the other car was injured. But, not one mention of it in any newspaper in the state. The media ought to be very ashamed. I'd also like to note that there has been NO media coverage of the Rochester case. I found one mention on a web radio site in Anniston but the Anniston Star has not had any story on this case. I find that repulsive.

Then there was Senator Richard Shelby's son who was busted at the Atlanta Intl' Airport in 1998 for smuggling 13.8 grams of hash into the country from England. Customs found it and fined him $500. Had it been you or me we would have been charged with international drug smuggling and we'd still be in prison.

US Congressman Spencer Bacchus's son was also involved in something drug related a few years ago. He got special treatment.

There are many other cases like this involving rich kids whose daddies are senator's, congressmen or judges from Alabama. Today I will update my list of such cases.

There are 30,000 people in the Alabama prison system. The majority of them were sent there originally for drugs or alcohol. 500 a year were sentenced to prison for marijuana before drug court started in Alabama. But, prison is apparently only for poor people.

I am out to change that, starting now. I will ask that this case be investigated by the Judicial Inquiry Commission and I will begin writing letters to editors across the state in hopes that the media will also begin an investigation. The public pays the salary of these judges, who in turn send kids of the poor members of the public to prison....but let their own kids go free. We have a right to know exactly what went on in this case, who the judge was that set such a low bond, how come it was set so low, if it was done in Clay County and what we can expect to happen to John Alexander Rochester when he is released from rehab in Mississippi.

To Judge Rochester....I will be watching you very closely. Believe that! I am going to be a shrill about this case until I get some answers. How do you sleep at night when you have sentenced so many people to prison for very minor drug infractions yet your drug pushing son is pretty much free at a nice rehab center in Mississippi? This won't stand Judge. When you run for office again I will be the first one to point out what you did for your own son and what you have done to other people's sons and daughters for far lesser infractions. I hope the Judicial Inquiry Commission investigates you and takes action against you. I'd like to see you removed from the bench.

UPDATE: A friend of mine sent me all six case action summaries on this case. John Alexander Rochester was charged with possession of Methyl Amphetamine
and the bond was $20,000, possession of drug paraphernalia bond was $5,000, distribution of a controlled substance bond was $15,000, possession of a controlled substance bond was $15,000, 1st degree possession of marijuana bond was $10,000, trafficking cocaine bond set at $20,000.


Those bonds are so low for those charges it is beyond the pale. And just as I suspected Judge George C. Simpson was the judge in this case. I hope the commenter from one of the earlier posts will let us know which two charges bonds were not paid on when John Alexander Rochester was released to the custody of his mother.

My friend who sent the case action summaries also noted the following..

It appears two are Class B Felonies with a minimum of three years incarceration and the rest are possession cases. Now the mandatory three years for trafficking can be either reduced or it can be split so that the person does not have to actually serve the time.

Now, I grew up in Ashland and I know exactly where he was arrested. The park is within a stones throw of public housing and maybe a mile from both the schools. Will there be enhancements added to his sentence like everyone else's? I see no mention of enhancements in the case action summaries.

Does anyone know where he is now? Is he still in treatment in Mississippi? Is he out? When will the grand jury convene and decide whether or not to indict him?








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Friday, March 14, 2008

More on Judge Rochester's Son

Yesterday I posted about Circuit Court Judge John Rochester's son, John Alexander Rochester, being charged with drug trafficking in Ashland, AL. According to the Ashland police department Rochester is charged with Trafficking in Cocaine, Possession of Controlled substance, Possession of Marijuana first degree, Unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and trafficking in illegal drugs.

Those are some very serious charges.

It just so happens that Ashland, AL is my hometown. I grew up there and know virtually everyone. Three people are currently feeding me information on the case and all are watching to see if the judges son gets special treatment. My sources are telling me that John Alexander Rochester will turn states evidence and that arrangements are being sought for a treatment bed for him.

Rochester's son should not get special treatment because of who he is or because his daddy can afford to buy him a slot in a treatment center. If he does then I will organize a very rowdy protest on the steps of the Clay County Courthouse along with some or perhaps all of the following people and anyone else I can round up. Should be quite a crowd seeing as about half the population of Clay Co. has had someone sent to prison by Judge Rochester for drugs.

The kid I went to church with who got a five year prison sentence from Judge Rochester for possessing one Xanax. He wasn't trafficking. His family will attend too. They are well respected.

My brother, who Rochester has sentenced twice, ten years each, for being an alcoholic. He has never been a trafficker.

My sister-in-law, who is in jail with Judge Rochester's son. She is accused of having pills without a prescription. She has never been a trafficker

This is a chance to expose the blatant hypocrisy that is the criminal justice system. It will show that you can have about as much justice as you can afford in this country.

I think drug use/sales of any kind between consenting adults shouldn't be a crime and please don't think I am advocating for jail or prison for the young Rochester or the Yates kid. I am not. But, if one deserves a shot at a treatment bed then they all do and it shouldn't be based on how much money one has, and if it is then it is unconstitutional because it is discriminatory in nature. Only the rich can get in. The poor go to jail.

I'll keep everyone posted on new developments and if you are reading from Clay County then start rounding up folks that have felt the wrath of Judge Rochester to join in our potential protest.







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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Judge John Rochester's Son Arrested on Trafficking Charges

Oh...how the mighty have fallen!!

Judges son arrested

The son of a Clay county circuit court judge is in the Clay County jail on multiple drug charges. According to Ashland Police, John Alexander Rochester, son of circuit court judge John Rochester and Kyle Tyler Yates were both arrested in an Ashland park by police. Rochester is charged with Traffficking in Cocaine, Possession of Controlled substance, Possession of Marijuana first degree, Unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and trafficking in illegal drugs. Yates has been charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Both men remain in the Clay county jail.


Here is the beauty of this thing. I have sat in Judge Rochester's court room many times since I was a kid. Never been before him myself...but other family members and friends have and were placed in prison for YEARS for simple possession charges. Trafficking brought unbelievable sentences from Judge Rochester. It has been rumored for a long time by various sources that Judge Rochester is a big fan of nose candy himself....but I have never been able to confirm that. If he toot's he never offered me a bump.

And now his precious boy resides in the Clay County jail for trafficking. Interestingly enough...my sister-in-law is also in that same jail because she is a chronic pain patient who has no insurance and has to acquire her medications from the street. She is facing 15 years right now for that very thing. At least she has a legitimate need for doing what she is accused of if she actually did it.

I had a friend call me a few weeks ago to tell me that he is about to go before Rochester for trafficking cocaine. They have him on wire talking to an undercover and the undercover asks, "How much can I get for this?" and "You got that?" Specific drugs are never mentioned. He asked me if there was anything I could do to help him. I sent him a text message few minutes ago with this information about Rochester's son. That should help.

Now, I assume that Rochester will recuse himself from this case. I also assume he will use every available power that he has to keep his 'precious' out of the horrible Alabama prison system that he has so unceremoniously sent other people's precious kids to for the same or lesser crimes. I bet he might even try to get him in drug court...but traffickers are not eligible for drug court. When that fails he'll start looking for treatment for his kid...while he denied it to so many others, and maybe he will learn first hand about the appalling lack of treatment beds in this state.

I love it when officials kids make them look like fools. They parade around town acting holier-than-thou, wielding their power without regard for others...never thinking that one day it will be their kid.

Poetic Fucking Justice BABY!!

I LOVE IT!



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Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Little Mass DISSENT Anyone?

There is an excellent piece posted over at TIME Magazine written by the writer's of HBO's 'The Wire'. I don't have HBO and have never watched the show but they have hit the drug war between the eyes with this piece.

They say from here on out if they are asked to serve on the jury of a non-violent drug offender they will practice Jury Nullification. I am a big fan of such dissent tactics. It is extremely unlikely that I will ever be picked to serve on the jury in a non-violent drug case....but if I were picked I would employ jury nullification.

If you are picked to serve on the jury of a non-violent drug case I would ask that you do the same. If you are on trial then have people stand outside the courthouse on jury picking day and HAND OUT JURY NULLIFICATION INFORMATION to prospective jurors. It's legal and it is your right!

Here is just a snippet


Yet this war grinds on, flooding our prisons, devouring resources, turning city neighborhoods into free-fire zones. To what end? State and federal prisons are packed with victims of the drug conflict. A new report by the Pew Center shows that 1 of every 100 adults in the U.S. — and 1 in 15 black men over 18 — is currently incarcerated. That's the world's highest rate of imprisonment.

The drug war has ravaged law enforcement too. In cities where police agencies commit the most resources to arresting their way out of their drug problems, the arrest rates for violent crime — murder, rape, aggravated assault — have declined. In Baltimore, where we set The Wire, drug arrests have skyrocketed over the past three decades, yet in that same span, arrest rates for murder have gone from 80% and 90% to half that. Lost in an unwinnable drug war, a new generation of law officers is no longer capable of investigating crime properly, having learned only to make court pay by grabbing cheap, meaningless drug arrests off the nearest corner.

If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.


GO READ THE REST!!

Also visit Fully Informed Jury Association and educate yourself on this most noble form of dissent!





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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Birmingham Agrees to Stop Jailing Indigent defendants for Inability to Pay Fines

Gee, that is mighty white of them ain't it? About time too.


City settles federal lawsuit; judge must weigh ability to pay



Monday, February 25, 2008
VAL WALTON
News staff writer

The City of Birmingham has agreed to no longer automatically jail defendants who are unable to pay fines and costs for misdemeanor crimes.

In settling a 2006 federal lawsuit, city officials acknowledged that there were certain procedures judges in the Birmingham Municipal Court system did not follow when dealing with indigent defendants.

"We admitted there were certain things the judges were doing that they shouldn't be doing," said Lawrence Cooper, city attorney. "We agreed to follow the rules."

The suit, filed in Birmingham's federal court, accused the city of operating a dual system of justice that punished those who cannot pay fines more severely than those who can. The suit also claimed the city converted days in jail for fines and costs that resulted in a sentence that exceeded the maximum allowed by law.

Under the settlement, before fines, costs or restitution are converted to days in jail at the proper rate of $25 per day, the judge must determine a defendant's ability to pay. In the past, the city's automatic conversion of fines and costs to days in jail was at a rate of $15 per day.

Stephen Wallace, a Birmingham lawyer who sued the city on behalf of four indigent men, said Birmingham's sentences for indigent people who couldn't pay were illegal and unconstitutional. The suit said the Constitution prohibits automatic imprisonment for failing to pay a debt
.






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Friday, February 22, 2008

An Altercation with the Drug Court Gestapo

Yesterday, I was invited to attend the Birmingham Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society luncheon and panel discussion. The topic of the panel discussion was "Is Drug Court a Good Idea?"

A little bit of info on the Federalist Society.
The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be. The Society seeks both to promote an awareness of these principles and to further their application through its activities.


There members include all of the current conservative members of the Supreme Court and others of that ilk. Some might think that I would be out of place in such company, but the truth is I am a real conservative. I believe in a very small, un-intrusive government that serves to protect our rights and freedoms. I believe in states rights. I believe in the separation of powers. The people calling themselves conservatives today (The Republican Party) are really anything but.

I wouldn't have known about this luncheon, but apparently I have a friend in the legal community that thought my presence might be sorely needed at any such discussion on drug courts in Alabama. Bless'em! And a HUGE thank you to the attorney who invited me. If you live in Shelby Co. or surrounding areas and get wrapped up on drug charges CALL ME and I will give you the name of an attorney whose heart is in his work and that you can trust to fight like hell to clear your name. I would list it here on the blog but I haven't asked permission to do that. If I get permission I will put up a permanent link.

The luncheon was held at The Summit Club in Birmingham. The Summit Club is for really rich, powerful people. It is a private deal with membership dues (I don't know what they are but I suspect they are outrageous according to my poor person definition of that word). It is located on the 32nd & 33rd floors of the Regions Bank Harbert Center and it has an incredible view of the city. I had been there once before back in the late 90's. Yesterday my friend and fellow activist Dawn Palmer attended with me.

We arrived about the same time but had problems finding good parking. I wound up parking three blocks away. As soon as I pulled into the parking spot and began looking for change to feed the meter I was assailed by a homeless person. I tried to ignore him but he was persistent enough to tap on my window. "I don't have any cash." I wasn't lying either. All I had was enough to pay the $16 to get into the event. He walked away. About ten seconds later along came another one. I just waved him away. Then another one. Geez Louise! I finally got out of the car, fed the meter and hobbled the three blocks on my broke foot to the Harbert Center.

Dawn and I got in and got situated. Two more attorney's joined us at our table and introduced themselves and asked who we were and what we did. I explained that I am a legalizer, run Court Watch, Alabamians for Compassionate Care and ran for Governor with the Libertarian Party in 2006. It turns out that both of these attorney's had recently quit their practice and are opening an addiction treatment center. I was glad to hear that. Alabama has a huge deficit in the number of treatment beds available in the state and zero funding dollars. It's really awful. Drug Court can only be as good as the treatment offered. This bullshit of herding people through it and making them pay the drug courts anywhere from $2500 to $4000, plus CRO fees, plus drug test fees, plus drug and alcohol class fees is nothing more than government sanctioned extortion that doesn't help anyone. Most drug courts in Alabama offer no wrap around services such as mental health counseling and medications for those who need them, no vocational rehab to help them get a job, no transportation to get to and from drug court, which makes it almost impossible for people to get there because the state takes your license when you plead guilty. It's basically all a big fucking extortion scam.

The panel was made up of Drug Court Judge Davis Lawley, who was appointed by Gov. Bob Riley to take the place of Judge Pete Johnson when he retired in 2007. Judge Lawley informed us that he was a the former head of a drug task force and used to be the door-kicker-inner on drug raids. What a swell, unbiased person to be appointed Judge of drug court, eh? The other panelist was Lt. James Chambliss head of the Narcotics Division in the Birmingham Police Dept. Rep. Cam Ward (R- Alabaster) was also supposed to be on the panel but was unable to make it due to being in session in the legislature. A note to the organizers of this event...if you truly want to have a discussion on whether drug courts are a good idea or not how about including a panelist who doesn't profit directly from the drug war and drug courts? That'd make it a tad more balanced.

Having no opposing panelist I decided to fill that role from my chair in the audience. Judge Lawley spoke first and he covered what drug court is, how he wants to 'help' people who are 'addicts' so they can pay in their social security like everybody else. I got the impression that he felt every human was born to be a slave to social security taxes and that was perfectly ok by him. He tried to talk about how the brain works in an addicted human and failed terribly. It was painfully obvious he had not a single clue as to the science of drug addiction. He was a cop and now he is a judge and he never went to medical school, so just how exactly is he qualified to talk about addiction? Sounded to Dawn and me like he was acknowledging that addiction is a medical condition and not a criminal justice one. Which begged the question of why is he a drug court judge. But that isn't what I asked.

Next up was Lt. James Chambliss head of the Birmingham Police Dept. Narcotics Division. He kept looking at me long before he and Judge Lawley took their seats at the head of the room. He looked incredibly familiar. I am almost certain I have seen him in the State House. He talked about how his department is currently engaged in a "Zero Tolerance" campaign which consists of pulling over anyone and everyone. He said "We pull people over for throwing a piece of paper out the window. We use every tool we can to make contact with as many 'subjects' as we can to try and see what they are doing." It gave me chills. He continued to ramble about nothing in particular for some time. Seriously, this guy made no sense and was not talking about the subject of the luncheon at all. He said he sees the same people over and over and over. He threw in a comment about the Titanic being built by professionals and Noah's Ark being built by amateurs...but then failed to connect it to anything relevant. It was most bizarre! I couldn't help but wonder how many times his incoherent, rambling testimony put some poor non-violent drug user in jail.

Both Judge Lawley and Lt. Chambliss harped on the dangers of opiates, cocaine and meth. Neither of them mentioned marijuana in their remarks. I found that rather encouraging....until question time arose.

The first question was, "Does drug court reduce the recidivism rate and if so by how much?"

Lt. Chambliss started rambling again about seeing the same people over and over. To me that was a clear indication that Lt. Chambliss didn't think it was working. He continued to ramble about how bad drugs are and a bunch of other crazy nonsense that had absolutely nothing to do with the question asked. It was obvious that he probably didn't know what a recidivism rate was and he was floundering pretty badly when Judge Lawley attempted to answer the question. He didn't do much better. I was really surprised that they did not come prepared with some government math stats that say drug court works. It's like they never expected that question to come up.

There were a couple other questions before they got to me. I don't remember what they were. When I was finally called on I asked Judge Lawley how much of his drug court case load was made up of simple possession for personal use marijuana cases. It seemed that question caught him off guard as well. He had to stop and think about it for a minute. Then he pulled the random number of 10 to 12 percent out of this air. Now it may actually be that percentage but he really didn't seem to sure of that number. I noted that 50% of all drug arrests in Alabama are for simple possession of marijuana and that his number seemed very low to me. I then asked him if he thought that using 10 to 12 percent of the very scarce resources available for drug court on non-violent marijuana offenders was a waste since marijuana is not addictive and doesn't have the same health risks as other harder drugs.

Judge Lawley: "Absolutely not. Marijuana makes people lazy and a-motivational."

Me: "Well, I hope the narcotics officer won't arrest me for saying so, but I have been smoking marijuana regularly since the age of 12. I am now 33, I run Court Watch, Alabamians for Compassionate Care, a blog, I ran for Governor of Alabama in 2006 with the Libertarian Party, am often in the media and I am here at your meeting today. Does that sound like someone who is lazy and a-motivational to you?"

Judge Lawley: "No but not everyone reacts the same way. Not everyone is you."

Me: "True, yet the net cast by law enforcement drags in everyone caught with drugs and does not differentiate responsible users from non-responsible users. Why doesn't drug court focus its resources on just the problem drug users?"

Judge Lawley: "Talk to Cam Ward...I don't make the laws."

Me: "I've been talking to Cam Ward for a few years now."

Lt. Chambliss: "I would like to address this question. Marijuana is a gateway drug. Every drug addict I have ever dealt with started with marijuana."

Me: "Marijuana is not a 'gateway drug'. That is just a theory. Every drug addict also drank milk at some point too...so is milk a gateway drug? The connection between marijuana and harder drugs is that marijuana is simply the most prolific and widely available. What about tobacco and alcohol? Do you consider those gateway drugs as well?

Lt. Chambliss: "Them's legal."

Me: "Yes but I asked if you thought they were gateway drugs?"

Lt: Chambliss: "I believe tobacco a gateway drug."

Me: "But not alcohol?"

Lt. Chambliss: "No."

Me: "Both of you keep referring to 'drug related crime'. That is the wrong term. The correct term is prohibition related crime. It is exactly the same thing that we had when alcohol was outlawed in the 20's."

AT this point Lt. Chambliss became so irritated at me that he started asking me questions.

Lt Chambliss: "How many people you charged with narcotics?" (at least I think that is what he said)

Me: "None, I'm not a cop."

Lt.Chambliss: "How many narcotics raids you been on?"

Me: "None and I wouldn't ever go on one." bI almost said "Hey I'm asking the questions here" but figured that might push himover the edge and make him pull out his gun and shootme dead in my chair. Neither of those questions even made sense.


Judge Lawley: "I saw a study recently that showed marijuana caused 'paranoia'." (What he meant to say was schizophrenia).

The moderator jumped in at this point and cut off any further debate between the three of us. I was ready with this response had I been allowed to give it.

"I think you meant to say schizophrenia Judge. And regardless of what government study you read medical science tells us they have no idea what causes schizophrenia, that people are born with it and it is triggered at some point in their lives. Additionally, schizophrenics who use marijuana are using it to self-medicate. It doesn't cause the condition. If you truly meant that marijuana makes you paranoid I would offer up that it isn't marijuana that makes you paranoid....its the cops."

The next question was about arrest statistics. Lt. Chambliss pulled out some notes and left no doubt that cops and drug court judges are having no success in stemming the flow of drugs or stopping people from using them. He went back to about 2002 and read the amount of marijuana seized each year. Every year there was much more marijuana than the year before.

And then the fun was over because time was up. I'd like to be locked in a room with Lt. Chambliss for about an hour. Just me and him. He'd come out a changed man.

As we were leaving the lawyer who invited me came over and the first thing out of his mouth was, "I can't believe they would put that guy (Chambliss) in charge of anything. You couldn't make sense out of anything he was saying." I said, "Scary ain't it...and he carries a gun."

He also said that he was sitting by a Jefferson County Commissioner who was nodding his head in agreement with marijuana being a gateway drug. He said he told him that it isn't a gateway drug but that it is more widely available and easier to access than other drugs. The commissioner said, "That may be but the public isn't ready to hear that."

I had a marvelous time being a professional pain in the ass yesterday. It isn't often that I get to go head to head with a Narc and a drug court judge all in the same day. I was really surprised that some of the Federalist Society lawyers didn't ask about the Constitutionality of the drug war and the end run around the Constitution with the Interstate Commerce Clause. Really surprised.

Strangely, the question of whether drug court is a good idea was never answered. Judge Lawley, who makes around $140,000 a year, obviously thinks it is a good idea and Lt. Chambliss, although he hinted that it wasn't working, profits from the fact that it isn't working so he don't give a damn about whether it is a good idea or not. He'll still make blood money off the damn drug war anyway.

My friend who extended the invite also attended our Compassionate Care meeting last night and signed up. He also told me that he has a friend who used to be a drug task force officer and has since joined LEAP and is now against it. I made him promise to hook me up with that gem. I'd really like to get LEAP down here in the same room with Lt. Chambliss and Judge Lawley and any other law enforcement officers, DA's, defense attorneys and judges who are interested to attend.

Later today I am going to talk to my friends at LEAP and see what it would cost to get them down here and start raising funds to make that happen. I'll make a separate post about that and ask you dear readers to contribute to that most noble cause.

Peace Out
Loretta Nall

Cross Posted at Alabama Court Watch







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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Is Drug Court a Good Idea?

An attorney friend of mine sent this to me yesterday. I plan to attend on Thursday and hope that you might be able to as well.


Please join the Birmingham Lawyers Chapter of The Federalist Society for lunch and a panel discussion regarding Jefferson County's Drug Court

Panelists: Hon. Davis Lawley, Jefferson County District Court Judge
Rep. Cam Ward, Alabama House of Representatives (R, Alabaster)
Lt. James Chambliss, Head of Narcotics Div., Birmingham Police Dept.

Date: Thursday, February 21, 2008
Time: 11:30 - 1:00
Place: The Summit Club
Cost: $12 for members, law students, and judicial law clerks / $16 for non-members
Checks should be made payable to The Federalist Society
RSVP: By Tuesday, February 19 to Casie Coggin at ccoggin@maynardcooper.com or 205-488-3517

*The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, and not what it should be. The Society seeks both to promote an awareness of these principles and to further their application through our activities. For more information, please visit www.fed-soc.org





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