Shuler after arrest by Shelby County, Alabama
My guest today is Justice Integrity Project's Andrew Kreig. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Andrew.
JB: I just saw a headline that Alabama-based investigative journalist Legal Schnauzer, Roger Shuler was arrested. What can you tell us about this upsetting turn of events?
AK: Joan, thanks so much for having me back. This is a breaking news story that is both dramatic and important to every reader concerned about justice and the First Amendment.
Roger Shuler, the prominent progressive blogger whose columns frequently appear in OEN, was arrested and beaten by Shelby County sheriff's deputies at his Alabama garage upon returning home about 6 p.m. Oct. 23 from the local library. Roger faces a resisting arrest charge stemming from his refusal to obey a judge's order to stop writing about an affair he alleges involved Robert Riley Jr., a well-connected attorney who is part of Alabama's most prominent political family.
Later, authorities were holding Shuler indefinitely on two contempt of court charges issued by a judge in what seems like a "kangaroo court." There's no bond available. Also, Roger must post a $1,000 bond on his charge of resisting arrest for a struggle that occurred in his garage, which is attached to his home in Birmingham.
But there are much larger free press issues at stake than simply his freedom, or that of his wife, Carol.
JB: Good intro, Andrew. Thank you. Roger is a colleague of mine. I've worked with him over the last few years and interviewed him a few times. It's scary and unnerving when something like this happens to someone I know and respect. Having said that, please don't leave us hanging. What "larger free press issues" do you have in mind?
AK: Roger's arrest stems from his reporting and commentary about political, government, legal, sexual, and financial intrigues normally kept out of the media that the public sees. But much of it is of keen interest to the politicians, lobbyists, reporters, and lawyers who are wheeler-dealers playing the system. He has made the courageous and public-spirited decision that the public deserves to know in keeping with our constitutional and other mantras about the right of free expression, and the need for it in a democracy.
More specifically, the court has taken draconian measures after hearing only one side in a defamation case against public figures, who normally have a hard time under long-established law proving libel except in cases of extreme recklessness. Among the mind-boggling harsh measures the judge promptly imposed were orders to delete previously published material, forbid new writing, and to seal the court record from public view.
Shuler's failure to agree immediately to clearly unwarranted and illegal demands by the judge has brought reprisals against him and his wife. The situation presents a challenge to us, particularly leaders in journalism and law, about whether we like the First Amendment rhetoric or reality.
JB: More background, please, Andrew. After receiving a degree in journalism from the well-respected program at University of Missouri, Roger worked at a daily newspaper for 11 years and then for almost 20 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. But that all ended several years ago. What can you tell us about how and why he lost his job?
AK: Roger observed this development unfold in Alabama in 2007:
Following the 2006 conviction of Democratic former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on corruption charges, Alabama attorney Dana Jill Simpson revealed her work as a Republican opposition researcher. More specifically, she testified her work for White House advisor Karl Rove and other GOP leaders made her aware of a plot beginning in 2002 by then-Gov. Bob Riley and his son Rob, among others, to frame Siegelman on corruption charges.
Simpson painted in her testimony to congressional staff a riveting tale of high-level GOP corruption in Alabama. She said, for example, the plot was announced in 2002 by the husband of Montgomery-area U.S. Attorney Leura Canary. Also, Simpson swore that Bob Riley's son, Rob Riley, told her in early 2005 before Siegelman was even indicted for his second trial that the case would be steered to a judge, Mark Fuller, who "hated" Siegelman and who would "hang" the defendant.