Alabama's victory is splashed on sports pages across the country today, and the Crimson Tide players and coaches deserve their shining moment; they clearly were the superior team last night.
One of Bryant Jr.'s companies, Alabama Reassurance, was directly connected to a massive insurance fraud case in Pennsylvania several years ago. A prosecution resulted in a 15-year prison sentence for a Philadelphia lawyer/entrepreneur named Allen W. Stewart. Bryant Jr. and his company managed to escape with little scrutiny and no punishment.
The Alabama Reassurance story is about the sometimes unsavory business activities of those who support big-time college football. It also is about the double standard that can exist in the U.S. justice system. Is your company more likely to get away with unlawful activity if you have a famous name--not to mention money and power? The Paul Bryant Jr. story indicates the answer to that question is yes.
This has not required any Jack Anderson-like reporting on our part. Documents are available on the Web that show Alabama Reassurance's prominent role in the Allen W. Stewart case.
Perhaps the most troubling part of Paul Bryant Jr.'s connections to insurance fraud are that someone in the U.S. Justice Department apparently took steps to cover them up. This was in the late 1990s, when the DOJ was overseen by the Bill Clinton administration. Consider this, from one of our earlier posts:
Bryant and his company, Alabama Reassurance, came through the episode virtually unscathed. Sources tell Legal Schnauzer that a full-bore investigation of Alabama Re was to commence once the Stewart conviction was secured. In fact, Caryl Privett--then U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and now a Jefferson County Circuit judge--reportedly had promised investigators that they could go after Alabama Re once the Stewart trial was over.
By then, however, Privett was out of office, and someone in the U.S. Department of Justice called off the Alabama Re investigation. One can only wonder if Bryant's company has forsaken the fraudulent business practices that were revealed in the Stewart trial. One can also wonder who cut Bryant and his company a break--and why.
Who, indeed, cut Paul Bryant Jr. a gigantic break? Our research indicates the path runs awfully close to the doorstep of Birmingham lawyer Doug Jones, who at one point led Don Siegelman's defense team while also suing Siegelman's codefendant, former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. Before becoming Alabama's "King of Conflicts," Jones served as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in the late 1990s. And we have noted the footprints he has left behind in curious places:
Sources tell Legal Schnauzer that the investigation into Alabama Reassurance was called off after Privett's successor took office. And who was her successor? None other than Doug Jones.
Isn't that interesting? Did Doug Jones help cover up fraud connected to Paul Bryant Jr. while riding a white charger in the Richard Scrushy case?
You can rest assured that Paul Bryant Jr. and his buddies at Alabama Reassurance are riding high this morning, breathing in the rarefied air generated by Alabama's glory on the football field. Meanwhile, Allen W. Stewart resides in a federal prison because of a crime with direct ties to Alabama Reassurance. Is that how our justice system is supposed to work?
Consider the landscape in Alabama today. A former governor (Don Siegelman) and CEO (Richard Scrushy) have been convicted of a "crime" they clearly did not commit. Former educator and Alabama Rep. Sue Schmitz (D-Toney) is headed for federal prison for a "crime" that Harper's Scott Horton describes as "teacher underperforms lesson plan." And former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford is headed to prison after being convicted on fraud charges that amounted to accepting $236,000 in cash and gifts.
We don't mean to soft pedal the actions that led to Langford's conviction. But even if you factor in the value of business Langford steered to an investment banker, the fraud was less than $8 million.
Public documents indicate that Paul Bryant Jr.'s company was involved in a fraud that totaled $15 million. And the employees of Alabama Reassurance probably haven't been headed anywhere lately--except to the national-championship game last night.
In terms of football, here is a question that University of Texas fans might want to ponder. It's unclear how much money Paul Bryant Jr. contributes to the Alabama football program, but the sum figures to be substantial. What if Alabama Reassurance had imploded under the weight of a federal investigation several years ago and some of its employees wound up in federal prison? Would the University of Alabama still have been able to hire superstar coach Nick Saban? Would the Crimson Tide have been as powerful as it was last night at the Rose Bowl Stadium? Would the Crimson Tide have even come anywhere near making the national-championship game?
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