A Strange Development
Attorney Gen. Luther Strange by State of Alabama
Separately from the Riley-Duke defamation suit against Shuler, the campaign manager for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange last August filed a libel suit against Shuler because he alleged that she had had an affair with Strange.
The plaintiff was Jessica Garrison, a Birmingham attorney who directs the Republican State Attorneys General Association. Shuler alleged also that Strange authorized more than six figures in payments from his campaign entities to Garrison, and that an alleged affair with Strange helped prompt her divorce from a Tuscaloosa politician.
Garrison has denied the allegations. She won a ruling in Jefferson County's Circuit Court March 5 that Shuler had 30 days to answer or face a default judgment.
Shuler told me he has no way in jail to respond to the decision.
Illustrating the potential double-standards at work, Strange's office is prosecuting Democratic former state senator Lowell Barron and his former campaign manager on criminal charges of ethics violations regarding nearly $60,000 in campaign funds during their alleged affair. Before the trial scheduled in April, the defendants have demanded documentation from Strange of the kinds of specifics about his own payments to Garrison that Shuler had alleged.
The Jailed Journalist
The Committee to Protect Journalists, one of relatively few media organizations to protest Shuler's treatment, listed him in its annual worldwide survey as the only jailed journalist in the Western Hemisphere at the end of 2013. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press stepped forward with a letter on his behalf to the court.
These actions prompted several other groups to mention him briefly in their newsletters or other publications. But those scattered and sporadic efforts are no match for those within the court system who seem determined to destroy Shuler and his wife financially and otherwise.
Broadcaster Peter B. Collins covered the Shuler arrest when it happened and has stayed focused on it as a continuing outrage. He and I discussed it during an hour-long interview broadcast March 12 regarding the overall attacks on civil rights and the revelations in my book Presidential Puppetry. His subscription-only podcasts are available at no-cost after two weeks.
We analyzed the Shuler case as part of the Deep South civil rights struggle.
In the Birmingham jail, I met Shuler for the first time after reading his blogs almost daily for news of the courts in the Deep South. He stands slightly over 6-foot 4. He wore faded prison garb with horizontal stripes. Prisoners were in bare feet with rubber sandal flip-flops.
Shuler suffers isolation so complete that he said he was unaware of nearly all of the limited news coverage of his jailing, including my half dozen columns.
Also, he declined my offer to leave him several pieces of paper and pen so that he could try write legal papers seeking his release or appeal major procedural decisions that are clearly in violation of settled law.
"I know the guards would take the paper and pen as soon as you left," he told me. "I would love to have paper and pen, and be able to make filings to get out of here. But it's no use. You have to get materials like that from the jail commissary."