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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Ana Got Her Gun - In her house - In the safe

Blogger Comments:  To quote a friend:  "Wow! It's a mixed bag ruling that I can say is reasonable based on the evidence presented.  It makes me wonder though what kind of sheriff could not have made some arrest with all those pictures and identification."  

Is this the same evidence that Ana took to the FBI and the AG's office?  Keep your guns at home girl don't take your guns to town girl.  Isn't that a song?


Ana gets her gun: Judge drops firearm ban from former sheriff's probation

Posey

Franklin

Gray


HUNTSVILLE — Former Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin achieved partial success Tuesday in her effort to modify her probation terms to allow her to possess guns, arguing that numerous intruders on her property have placed her at risk.

    • — eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Update to the Blakely Saga

BLOGGER COMMENTS:  Last week all the local channels reported that Blakely's attempt to throw out the charges was denied.  Therefore, the arraignment will go on as originally scheduled.  That's tomorrow (the 12th), folks.  !:30 at the Limestone County Courthouse.  If you have some free time, go by and cheer for the home team.  Justice is winning, so far.

Don"t Forget our Veterans Today, Tomorrow, and Forever

This blog goes out to all the great men and women the whistleblower had the honor to work with over her career.  To include LTC Harold Lockhart (Ret), Specialist Daniel Lockhart, COL Douglas Brouillette (Ret), COL Don Jenkins (Ret), Command Sergeant Major Roby Garlen (Ret)(deceased), PFC Levoyd McCrary, deceased, James Paul Roberts Command Chief Master Sergeant (deceased),
Major Jim Lockhart (USAF) (Deceased), (Sergeant First Class Jack Holloway, Sergeant First Class Ronald Coleman, Sergeant Shannon Navarro, CW4 Steve Caudill (Ret), First Sergeant Chuck Forteliza (Ret), AC/2 Lorene Lockhart Butcher (WAAF), AC1 Donald Butcher USAF, and a host of prior employees, officers, and enlisted men and women that the whistleblower was honored to know and work with and for.



Sunday, November 10, 2019

Settled.

Blogger Comments:  There have been a lot of painstaking work that has gone into the blog.  We plan on reinstalling our blogs previously removed in the near future.  We worked hard to set the record straight.  No regrets.  We believe that politicians work for us the citizens.  There have been a lot of Alabama politicians brought up on charges for their misconduct.  Hopefully, more will be forthcoming.  To include Sheriff Blakely.  Anyone that doesn't know about Blakely's gambling habits must have their head in the sand.  

As for the whistleblower, you may wonder what she will do now.  Keep blogging of course.  Writing a tell-all book, stay family-oriented, and continue full force ahead with our business.  

Many of you will say that the whistleblower and Leon rolled.  Not so.  If you read the Daily it is evident that there was a lot going on in the previous sheriff's administration.  Some will be disappointed that these folks got off lightly.  Maybe.  Those are things beyond our control.  We do our best; the legal system does the rest.

Some things that were accomplished is that none of those identified are still in office, and those that chose to follow are no longer in law enforcement.    We have a new sheriff who is doing an outstanding job.  Last but not least we met some outstanding folks that work for the SO that did the right thing.  If you ever have any doubts go back and read the archives of the Decatur Daily, the New York Times, newspapers and magazines around the nation.

The previous sheriff has two years of probation to think about some of the things she did.  In addition, 300 hours of community service, and possibly more.   The real kicker is that the previous sheriff cannot leave North Alabama without permission.  That blows when you are a socialite.  We hope the community service fits the crime.  We know her previous boyfriend had it made in the shade.  We also can't help but wonder if her attorney will ever quit filing additional issues with the Federal Courts.  What a spring butt.


Former Morgan sheriff settles two more lawsuits


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More than three years and thousands of court filings after then-Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin and her deputies coordinated ill-fated searches at the home of her jail warden and the business of a blogger foe, the lawsuits arising from the searches have settled.
The settlements bring to an almost complete end the dizzying array of litigation that surrounded Franklin through much of her second term in office and persisted in the months that followed her departure.
Glenda Lockhart, a Falkville business owner who ran a blog harshly critical of the Franklin administration, filed her suit against Franklin and deputies Robert Wilson and Blake Robinson, in October 2016. Leon Bradley, whose 13-year tenure as the Morgan County Jail warden ended in October 2016 when Franklin fired him for allegedly providing official documents to Lockhart, filed his suit in July 2018.
“The Lockhart case and the Bradley cases settled,” Franklin’s lawyer, William Gray, said Friday. “They settled through mediation, and the terms are confidential. Basically all I can tell you is there was no admission of liability and all claims and counterclaims were dismissed.”
He said Franklin was relieved to have the lawsuits behind her.
"Litigation is no fun, except maybe for the lawyers," he said.
Lockhart on Friday said she also was restricted in commenting.
"The only thing I can say is that I'm glad it's over, but I'd do it again," she said.
In nearly identical one-page documents, the parties to the separate lawsuits stipulated Oct. 31 that all claims should be permanently dismissed, and U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala obliged with dismissal orders.
In addition to Franklin, Wilson and Robinson, Bradley’s lawsuit named the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and information technology employee Justin Powell as defendants. Franklin left office without seeking a third term in January, and none of the defendants remain employed at the Sheriff’s Office.
Bradley’s lawyer, Nick Heatherly, declined to comment, and Brandi Lee, Lockhart’s lawyer, did not return calls.
While the dollar amount of the settlement is confidential, court records show that the Association of County Commissions of Alabama Liability Self-Insurance Fund, the insurer for Morgan County, intervened in both lawsuits and was involved in ongoing mediation.
Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said Friday he had not been informed the cases were over.
“That’s good if they’ve settled,” Long said. “That’s just something the people of Morgan County won’t have to listen to anymore, something else to be cleared up. We’ll be glad to have it over.”
Of the many court proceedings in which Franklin was involved, most as a defendant, only one appears active.
Franklin last month was sentenced to two years probation and 300 hours of community service after she pleaded guilty to willful failure to file an income tax return, a misdemeanor. This case is the only one that is not entirely resolved. Several sealed pleadings have been filed since the federal magistrate judge issued the written order outlining the terms of her probation, which included a prohibition on her possessing firearms. A hearing is scheduled in that case in Huntsville on Tuesday.In September, a lawsuit filed by Franklin, Wilson and Robinson against Bradley and Glenda Lockhart’s grandson, Daniel Lockhart, was dismissed.
That lawsuit, filed in January, also arose indirectly out of the October 2016 searches. It focused on testimony Daniel Lockhart gave in an April 2018 hearing and an order by then-Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson. Thompson’s order determined the searches were illegal, and accepted Lockhart’s testimony that he was a paid informant for the sheriff and had installed keylogger software on his grandmother’s computers. Because the search was illegal, Thompson dismissed a resulting misdemeanor charge that had been filed against Bradley.
The lawsuit by Franklin and the former deputies was thrown out by Lauderdale County Circuit Judge Gil Self, who was assigned to the case after all Morgan County judges recused themselves.
In August, Franklin settled a lawsuit brought by Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson seeking to recoup inmate food money he alleged she had illegally placed in a personal bank account. Franklin returned $45,000 of the account’s $55,000 balance to resolve the lawsuit.
In January, Franklin settled a claim by the bankruptcy trustee of Priceville Partners LLC, a now-defunct title loan and used car business. Franklin loaned the company, part owned by convicted felon Greg Steenson, $150,000 in jail-food money.
Her filing of a proof of claim brought to public attention her violation of a 2009 court order prohibiting Morgan County sheriffs from personally benefiting from surplus money designated for feeding inmates. The trustee not only refused to acknowledge her claim as a creditor, he accused her of fraudulent transfers. Franklin settled the claim by agreeing she would only recoup her loan in the unlikely event all unsecured creditors were paid in full, and paying $34,000.
In June 2017, Franklin entered into a settlement of a claim by the Southern Center for Human Rights alleging her loan to Priceville Partners violated the 2009 court order. She refunded the money to the Sheriff’s Office food account and agreed to a $1,000 civil contempt fine.
Steenson remains in Morgan County Jail without bond, awaiting a scheduled Feb. 3 trial on felony counts related to his management of Priceville Partners.— eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.




Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Blakely Treasure Trove of Discovered Information

BLOGGER COMMENTS:  It takes a while to read thru 60,000 documents swooped in a vacuum cleaner-like discovery.  As the investigators plow through the files, they find some interesting stuff.  Turns out the sheriff may have a gambling problem or has found another way to launder cash. 

Today's Daily:

AG: Blakely indictment involves gambling



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A 13-count ethics and theft indictment against Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely made no mention of gambling activities, but a brief filed by prosecutors last week directly ties two charges to gambling at Mississippi and Las Vegas casinos.
The issue came up in a discovery dispute. Blakely’s lawyers filed a motion complaining that prosecutors had responded to their request for information with a digital “document dump” that was equivalent to more than 60,000 pages. In response, Assistant Attorney General Kyle Beckman noted that most of the documents were searchable, that most came from Blakely’s files, and that they were divided into folders to make reviewing them easier.
It was in the discussion of those folders that the state made clear that at least two of the felony counts were connected to Blakely’s alleged gambling activities.
One folder, Beckman wrote, is “the Beau Rivage folder for gambling records that correspond with an August 2016 wire transfer.” Beau Rivage is a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. The "Beau Rivage Casino" folder provided to Blakely's lawyers has 134 pages, according to the brief.
The Beau Rivage documents relate to count 11 of the indictment, a felony charge of soliciting a thing of value from a subordinate. The indictment alleges that a “subordinate or person with whom he directly inspects, regulates, or supervises in his official capacity” wired $1,000 to Blakely on Aug. 17, 2016.
Another folder, according to Beckman’s brief, is “the Palace Station folder for records for hotel and gambling activities that correspond with a December 2015 wire transfer.” Palace Station is a hotel and casino in Las Vegas. The "Palace Casino, Las Vegas" folder includes 18 pages of documents, according to the brief.
The Palace Station documents relate to count eight of the indictment, charging the sheriff with use of his official position or office for personal gain. This count alleges a Limestone County Sheriff’s Office employee on Dec. 9, 2015, wired $1,000 to Blakely, “a family member, or a business with which he is associated.”
The wire transfers, according to Beckman’s brief, were made through Western Union.
Blakely’s lawyers, Robert Tuten and Mark McDaniel, were both out of town Tuesday and unavailable for comment, according to their staffs. Beckman and an Attorney General's Office spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.
While not mentioned in the indictment, there are other indications that Blakely or a family member engaged in gaming activities.
On May 31, 2018, Blakely amended his 2016 Alabama Ethics Commission Statement of Economic Interests to report "more than $250,000" in household income from "TN Lottery and gaming establishments."
On the same day, he amended his 2017 Statement of Economic Interests to report $50,000 to $150,000 in household earnings from "gaming establishments."
His 2018 ethics disclosure, filed in May of this year, reported $50,000 to $150,000 in winnings from "gaming institute," and $1,000 to $10,000 from "LA. Racing Commission," with the income described as "race horse."
Other charges
Beckman’s brief also gives other hints as to what the state hopes to prove in the prosecution of Blakely.
One of the counts in the indictment, for example, alleges Blakely used his position to obtain two interest-free loans or credits totaling $72,189.68.
Beckman argues that “Blakely knows precisely what this count relates to; he told multiple witnesses that the State would be asking them about these transactions and the events that led to them. In fact, Blakely told at least one witness why he received this money so that the witness would ‘understand’ when he or she was questioned by law enforcement about the matter.”
Another count alleges Blakely took interest-free loans from a safe that held money belonging to Limestone County inmates.
In the brief, Beckman notes that Blakely later wrote checks from his personal bank account “to repay the loans he took from the safe when he lacked money.”
Among the folders Beckman said were included in discovery provided to Blakely’s lawyers were ones from Alabama Realtors, Austin Hinds Motors and Red Brick Strategies. Red Brick, based in Huntsville, is a public relations firm that won an award for its "Sheriff Mike Blakely Gets Things Done" campaign ad in 2015.
All three companies gave “Blakely’s campaign money that Blakely then stole,” according to Beckman’s brief.
The state also turned over 44 pages of documents in a folder labeled "Fred Sloss," according to Beckman's brief. Sloss is Blakely's chief deputy. Both are defendants in a federal lawsuit filed this year by since-fired Limestone County investigator Leslie Ramsey claiming Sloss assaulted her and Blakely retaliated against her when she complained. Sloss and Blakely denied the claims.
The Attorney General’s Office on Monday also filed a response to a motion by Blakely that sought to dismiss the indictment as being based on an unconstitutional state ethics law.
“The Ethics Act is unconstitutionally vague as charged in the indictment," Blakely’s lawyers asserted in the motion. "The sections of the Ethics Act charged in the indictment, and therefore the indictment itself, are void for vagueness.”
Blakely's attorneys said he is charged with five counts of using his official position or office for personal gain.
“Nowhere in the statute does it specify what conduct is prohibited,” the motion reads. “Nor does it specifically explain the term 'using' or 'personal gain.' "
The motion states that Blakely is also charged with soliciting “a thing of value from a subordinate,” while the lawyers maintain “this statute does not specifically explain what conducts are prohibited and leaves it to a best guess as to what 'solicitation' and 'thing of value' mean."
The state was dismissive of Blakely’s arguments, noting that numerous courts have upheld the constitutionality of the Alabama Ethics Act, that “there is nothing vague about prohibitions against using your official position to steal money or soliciting money from subordinates,” and that the argument that the ethics law is unclear “does not apply to a sheriff who has been enforcing the law for 36 years and now claims the law cannot be understood.”
“Defendant Blakely is not the first public official, when confronted with criminal charges, to ask a court to strike down the cornerstone laws that protect citizens from graft, corruption and dishonest government,” Beckman wrote.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Is This a Big Mistake? UPDATE

Blogger Comments:  Folks, we really like Stitcher.  Hoping this is a mistake.  





Don Stisher, a longtime Morgan County commissioner, has been indicted on a felony charge of violating Alabama’s ethics law, the authorities said.
Stisher, 63, was released on his own recognizance after turning himself in to the Morgan County jail this morning. Attempts to reach Stisher for comment weren’t immediately successful.
Stisher is charged with receiving gifts as a public official, a Class C felony that’s punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to the sheriff’s office. He’s charged under a statute that says public officials can’t convert campaign funds to personal use, according to the authorities.
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Stisher’s case was sent to the AG’s office last year after the Alabama Ethics Commission found there was probable cause that the commissioner had violated the law.
Stisher served on the Morgan County commissioner from 1996-2004. He returned to the commission in 2008 and has served District 3 since then. The district is in southern Morgan County.
Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said Stisher hasn’t notified the commission about the case.
This story will be updated.

Alabama official pleads guilty to misusing campaign funds

  • Nov 5, 2019
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News outlets report state prosecutors initially charged Morgan County District 3 Commissioner Don Stisher with a felony for violating the state ethics law. A Morgan County grand jury indicted Stisher last month, but his charge was reduced to a misdemeanor because he says it wasn't intentional.
Stisher's attorney acknowledged he accepted the donations and deposited the money into his personal account rather than his 2016 campaign account. Records show Stisher took $1,000 each from two donors in 2015. He called the deposits an "oversight."
On Monday he was fined $2,000 and given a year of probation.
Al.com reports he said he has qualified to run for reelection in 2020.



Thursday, October 31, 2019

Jail Escape Update

BLOGGER COMMENTS:  It's been a rough week for the blog and we're a little behind the news curve, but in case you haven't kept up with the escape, the manhunt, and the missing teenager, here's a recap.

The MCSO explains how the escape happened.  Or you can go to SO facebook page.


Authorities continue search 

 for Morgan jail escapee

While local and state authorities searched for a Morgan County Jail escapee late Monday, sheriff's investigators are reviewing video to help ensure another escape doesn’t happen.
Meanwhile, a Lawrence County Jail inmate who escaped early Sunday morning is back behind bars.
Morgan sheriff's spokesman Mike Swafford said John Kaleb Gillespie, 30, a registered sex offender, apparently used bedsheets to help him find freedom Sunday afternoon. Gillespie is deemed dangerous and has a violent history with law enforcement.“This is the first successful escape from inside the secure area of the Morgan County Jail,” Swafford said. “We’ll look at it and see that it doesn’t happen again.”
Swafford said Gillespie likely had been missing 45 minutes before his absence was suspected. “We could come up with a 100 different theories; we don’t actually know (how he got away),” he said.
Swafford said it appears Gillespie went to the recreation area of the jail and climbed the steep wall after getting a boost from a fellow inmate, then used the bedsheets “to get down more safely.” He said Gillespie may have had the tied bedsheets wrapped around him under his jail clothes.
Swafford said the climb and drop were each between 20 to 30 feet. The surveillance video doesn’t show what Gillespie grabbed to climb the wall, Swafford said, and he exited on the east side of the jail. Gillespie ran toward the courthouse about 12:23 p.m. Sunday,
And...

Police: Missing Moulton teen could be in danger with Morgan escapee


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    A missing Moulton teenager could be in danger with a Morgan County Jail escapee, who is a registered sex offender, according to the Moulton police chief.
    Chief Lyndon McWhorter said Peyton Bryleigh Ledlow, 16, was last seen Monday and reported missing Monday afternoon. McWhorter said the Lawrence County High School sophomore may have ties with John Kaleb Gillespie, 30, who escaped from the Morgan County Jail on Sunday afternoon. Authorities said Gillespie is deemed dangerous and has a violent history with law enforcement.
    “I believe there’s a possibility she’s with him, and if she is she could be in danger based on our past dealings with him eluding law enforcement,” McWhorter said.

Archibald on Sheriff Blakely

BLOGGER COMMENTS:  Once again we're publishing another of John Archibald's pointed commentaries on one of our favorite sheriffs.

Children know what this sheriff doesn’t

Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely is the most recent Alabama public official to turn against the state’s vaunted ethics law.
The law is flawed because it’s too vague, his lawyers say. The law is too broad because it applies to him. The law stinks because this dude could not tell wrong from right.
You want clarity on the law? You want more specificity? I’m your huckleberry.
Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you. Easy.
Don’t cheat. Don’t steal.
Don’t use public service as a get-rich-quick scheme.
Don’t take the rest of us for saps.
Blakely is just the latest Alabama politician who bristled against the ethics law after he got caught. It’s like an epidemic, and it has become the one thing that brings Democrats and Republicans together. For all the wrong reasons.
The law, passed in 2010 after a wave of Democratic corruption, was ballyhooed as the best and strongest in all the land. That was considered a good thing. Until Republicans, like corruptor-in-chief Mike Hubbard, began to trip on it. The assault on the law began as Hubbard was charged, and convicted, and sentenced to prison. He was sentenced 1,172 days ago, and he remains free as the Alabama Supreme Court searches for a way to save face and still set him free.
Blakely – a 10-term Democrat and the longest-serving Alabama sheriff – finds common ground with Hubbard. They both want to protect their hides.
Blakely’s lawyers want the judge in the case, Circuit Judge Pride Tompkins, to toss the whole thing because the ethics law doesn’t give a full list of what is meant by “personal gain” or a complete accounting of all the conduct that is prohibited.
Because what is clear to a kindergartner is not clear to the sheriff.
Many of the charges against Blakely don’t even involve the part of ethics law that gets a little complicated. He faces six counts of using his office for personal gain, an ethics crime, but seven more of the charges are straight-up theft.
There are two counts of first-degree theft and two counts of second-degree theft and two counts of third-degree theft and all of those crimes are felonies. There’s even a misdemeanor fourth-degree theft, so Blakely is one of the legendary few who actually hit for the larceny cycle.
Prosecutors say he took thousands in county money and law enforcement fund money and inmate money and used it for himself. They say he took campaign donations for personal use, too. They say he also used his office to get an interest free loan of $50,000 or more.
Blakely can’t claim ignorance. He can’t plead not guilty by reason of idiocy. He took the required ethics training by the Alabama Ethics Commission and is in a position to know right from business as usual.
The truth is, if this guy did not understand that law well enough to see know those actions are wrong, he had no business enforcing the law in Limestone County for one day, much less almost 40 years.
They want you to believe they are smart and savvy when they run for office. And when they are caught they want a judge – and the rest of us -- to believe they are dimwitted and gullible victims.
The audacity is incredible.
The epidemic is spreading.
Politicians want to gut or overturn this law. And they will not stop. Don’t forget it.
Prosecutors say he took thousands in county money and law enforcement fund money and inmate money and used it for himself. They say he took campaign donations for personal use, too. They say he also used his office to get an interest free loan of $50,000 or more.
Blakely can’t claim ignorance. He can’t plead not guilty by reason of idiocy. He took the required ethics training by the Alabama Ethics Commission and is in a position to know right from business as usual.
The truth is, if this guy did not understand that law well enough to see know those actions are wrong, he had no business enforcing the law in Limestone County for one day, much less almost 40 years.
They want you to believe they are smart and savvy when they run for office. And when they are caught they want a judge – and the rest of us -- to believe they are dimwitted and gullible victims.
The audacity is incredible.
The epidemic is spreading.
Politicians want to gut or overturn this law. And they will not stop. Don’t forget it.