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Neighbors and officials warned to not talk

Bill Britt

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This week, the Murfreesboro, Tennessee, PD stated that the death of Bridget Gentry Marshall, wife of Attorney General Steve Marshall, was an open investigation, therefore, they would not release information that is generally public record.

Law enforcement officers here and in Tennessee say that the Incident Report is missing vital information that is required of any crime where a firearm is recovered.

According to a high-ranking police official, the make, model, serial number and an estimated value of the recovered firearm is typically listed on the official Incident Report. None of this information about the weapon is present on the report, only that a handgun was found at the scene and that Mrs. Marshall died of a gunshot wound.

Again, according to police officials commenting on background because it is an ongoing investigation, the officer at the scene would have immediately processed the firearm through National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to determine ownership and to see if the weapon had been used in a crime. Any gun can also be identified using ATF’s National Tracing Center (NTC).

“Comprehensive firearms tracing is the routine tracking of every crime gun recovered within a geographic area or specific law enforcement jurisdiction,” according to ATF. NTC is used to, “provide investigative leads in the fight against violent crime and terrorism and to enhance public safety.” These searches are used to track the movement of firearms recovered by law enforcement.

Over the last several days, APR has sought to understand the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Marshall’s death after her husband made contradictory statements at a press conference he called to discuss her passing. New information, such as it was Mrs. Marshall’s mother, Linda Gentry, who is listed on the report as the one who made the call about the incident, not Steve Marshall, as reported during his press conference. It is in the public interest, not only for public safety, but also because Marshall is continuing his campaign to be the state’s Attorney General.

APR contacted police and fire department officials, spoke with the apartment manager and neighbors at the upscale apartment homes located at 2320 Puckett Creek Crossing, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where Mrs. Marshall was staying. Every individual, including the neighbors, said law-enforcement had warned them not to speak to anyone about the incident because it is an open investigation.

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Current and former investigators say it is highly unusual for police to canvass a neighborhood to warn people not to talk about a potential crime that happened in their community.

When APR contacted the office of Tennessee’s Attorney General, we were informed that the only person who could speak on the matter was on vacation, and they did not know when she would return.

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Brooks touts bipartisan NDAA bill

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks. (via YouTube)

Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, touted the many positive aspects of the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act, the bill that funds the U.S. military, in an email to constituents.

“Last Wednesday, after a 14-hour House Armed Services Committee debate session, I voted ‘Yes’ on H.R. 6395, the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. HASC unanimously passed the FY21 NDAA,” Brooks said. “The NDAA has passed Congress 59 consecutive years & authorizes Department of Defense programs. The full House of Representatives is expected to debate the FY21 NDAA in July.”

“The House Armed Services Committee’s year long national security policy process culminated in NDAA passage,” Brooks explained. “Despite COVID19 and shutdown disruptions, the Armed Services Committee successfully produced an FY21 NDAA that strengthens national security. The FY21 NDAA authorizes $731.6 billion in total defense spending; $662.6 billion is base budget military operations; $69 billion is overseas operations.”

Brooks listed a number of FY21 NDAA points that he believes strengthen national security, which include $1 billion to help America prepare for and defend against future pandemics, a 3 percent troop pay raise, $600 million above the president’s request for science and technology and investments in critical emerging technology areas such as artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and biotechnology, and full funding for vital nuclear modernization programs to ensure that America’s nuclear deterrent is safe and reliable.

Brooks added that, “Each year the Redstone Arsenal military and contractor support community submits policy requests concerning America’s national security needs. My office successfully helped insert 27 local policy requests into the NDAA that passed Armed Services. Seventeen of those policy requests were negotiated with HASC Chairman Adam Smith (D, WA-09) and included in the Chairman’s base bill.”

Brooks successfully fought for Army aviation. Full funding for Apache helicopter modernization and advanced procurement. $136 million funding increase for Chinook aircraft. Requiring a report on the Army’s efforts to develop and acquire enhanced systems to assist aircraft navigating with poor visibility. $9.5 million funding increase for support testing of small additive manufacturing test articles to provide statistical data required for Army aviation airworthiness.

Brooks also prioritized missile defense. A $106 million funding increase for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery. $115 million funding increase for additional SM-3 Block IIA missiles. $130 million funding increase for the Homeland Defense Radar – Hawaii. Brooks also supported a provision adding companies that are entirely owned by an employee stock ownership plan to the definition of ‘nontraditional defense contractor’ under the Other Transaction Authority.

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“The Tennessee Valley is home to many ESOP companies and this helps them compete for DOD contracts, especially as they grow into larger businesses,” Brooks said.

Brooks supported a $45 million funding increase to support the Navy’s conversion of two Expeditionary Fast Transports to be Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle prototypes. $7 million funding increase for a commercial satellite weather data pilot program, to dramatically increase the detail of atmospheric weather data and space weather data.

“The program will also improve forecasting ability for terrestrial weather and help us better understand the impact of space weather on our satellites,” Brooks said.

$20 million funding increase for the development of a heavy payload, solar-powered, unmanned aerial system to allow the Department of Defense to maintain persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for more than 3 months, without needing to be refueled.

Brooks advocated for a $32 million funding increase for the development of active protection system technologies for the Stryker vehicle.

“APS technologies allow vehicles to protect themselves against anti-tank guided missiles and other threats,” Brooks said.

The congressman supported a $10 million funding increase for software development necessary for the planning and execution of flight missions and tests of the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon.

Brooks championed a provision supporting the Air Force’s plan for Phase 2 of the National Security Space Launch program as well as a $5 million funding increase for the development of alternative position, navigation, and timing and time transfer techniques.

“In the event of a loss or disruption of our space-based assets, it is essential to have alternate methods to communicate GPS-like data across Department of Defense systems,” Brooks said.

Brooks also successfully negotiated for requiring a report on continuity of care for abused spouses of service members.

“In addition to the 17 policy requests negotiated into the Chairman’s base bill, I successfully added another 10 amendments to the NDAA during the HASC debate,” Brooks added. “They include but are not limited to: Requiring a briefing on efforts to improve tactical satellites and synthetic aperture radar data processing. Requiring a briefing on the Missile Defense Agency’s efforts to develop a cyber-secure information technology infrastructure. $10 million funding increase for development of a material property database to serve as a design resource for the U.S. government and industry involved in hypersonic weapon system design and development. Requiring a briefing on the Army’s plan to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques into development of its missile defense systems. $5 million funding increase for virtual training environments for Army aviators and maintainers. Requiring a briefing on how DOD will ensure that third-party assessors maintain confidentiality about any proprietary or non-public information they may have access to in course of conducting cyber certifications on DOD contractors. Authorization for the Army to provide certain goods and services at Kwajalein Atoll.”

Brooks is in his fifth term representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. Defense and defense contracting is critically important to the state of Alabama and especially the 5th Congressional District.

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Under cloak of secrecy, dark money nonprofit targets Birmingham law firm

From the beginning, Forbes’s “BanBalch.com” website set out to tarnish the law firm by claiming to expose “unsettling controversies surrounding Balch & Bingham,” much of which stems from allegations, inference and speculation.

Bill Britt

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A mosaic of headlines from Forbes's website, which attack the Birmingham law firm Balch & Bingham.

A California-based, dark money organization has set up shop in Alabama. It appears the move has substantially improved the group’s financial outlook and altered its core mission.

Because of the group’s federally protected status, it is impossible for the public to know who is pouring cash into Consejo de Latinos Unidos — translated as United Latinos Council — but a state tax lien and its CEO’s website may offer a peek at what might be hiding behind the nonprofit’s dark-money veil of secrecy.

Founded in 2001, and originally headquartered in Los Angeles, CDLU’s stated mission, according to reports was to “foster, encourage and develop educational opportunities and programs in Latino communities.”

Leaving its Latino-centric advocacy roots, the current website says the group’s “primary mission is helping to provide urgent and life-saving medical care for those in need with nowhere else to turn.”

Although it relocated to Birmingham sometime between 2013 and 2014, CDLU has never registered with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office — and its board of directors is still located in California and elsewhere.

In 2017, it appears CDLU once again found an added purpose for its activities far from its previously stated missions.

CDLU’s CEO, Kevin Brendon Forbes, who goes by his initials “K.B.” launched a website in 2017, on which he targets Birmingham-based law firm Balch & Bingham.

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Mother Jones characterizes Forbes as a “self-styled ‘child of the Reagan revolution,’ [who] grew up in a mixed household in a Los Angeles suburb.” Forbes also worked for far right-wing commentator and one time Republican presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan, as well as media-mogul and former Republican presidential contender Steve Forbes. (The men are not related.)

Why a leader of a nonprofit would devote daily energy to attacking a law firm is not entirely clear, but it seems to have begun with what Forbes refers to as the “Newsome Conspiracy Case,” which involves an extended court battle between Burt Newsome, a Birmingham attorney, and Balch & Bingham.

Not only did CDLU’s focus change when Forbes became close to Newsome, the organization’s fortunes began to improve, as well.

Forbes is considered the driving force behind the group’s ventures in Alabama. He is also personal friends with Newsome. Facebook posts show both Newsome and Forbes’ wives enjoying social events on multiple occasions.

There is a direct friendship between the wives of Forbes and Newsome. They have been friends since at least 2016 and posts show a number of public interactions since then.

Forbes reserved the website “BanBalch.com” shortly after the Newsome and Forbes families formed a friendship, and the website’s first articles were aimed squarely at Newsome’s lawsuit with Balch & Bingham.

From the beginning, the website set out to tarnish the law firm by claiming to expose “unsettling controversies surrounding Balch & Bingham,” much of which stems from allegations, inference and speculation.

Under the banner of his nonprofit, Forbes has also taken further steps to attack the firm’s largest clients.

Forbes has taken credit for costing Balch & Bingham hundreds of thousands of dollars in client fees while also remaining fixated on the firm, writing Newsome a check to settle the disputed lawsuit with CDLU as mediator.

Why would CDLU offer itself as a mediator in a private lawsuit especially given the fact that Forbes is not an attorney?

From a ragtag blog to a more sophisticated web presence, BanBalch.com has expanded its coverage to include those associated with Balch & Bingham.

Veteran politicos who asked not to be directly quoted in this article to avoid being dragged into Forbes’ intrigues suggest that those with other darker motives could use the site for a broader political agenda. These insiders question whether political operatives are now feeding Forbes opposition research and money to do their bidding.

As a federally sanctioned nonprofit, CDLU must complete an annual tax filing.

Federal Form 990, the annual statement that must be filed by all IRS recognized nonprofit organizations, shows that in the past five years, annual gross income of CDLU averaged $7,030. The last 990 filed for the year 2018 shows CDLU finishing the year with a $12,363 deficit, and all the 990s filed by CDLU for the past decade show the nonprofit has never paid anyone a salary.

While the 990 for 2019 is not due until November of this year, a tax lien from the state of Alabama filed on January 3, 2020, suggests that in the first three months of 2019, CDLU paid someone or some number of people between $186,000 to more than $500,000. The lien for $11,671.73 was for unpaid withholding tax to the state of Alabama — including up to a 25 percent penalty.

Depending on the number of people paid and the amount each person was paid, this lien represents a minimum of $186,000 in compensation paid and a maximum possibility of more than $580,000.

As a 501(C)(3), Forbes’ organization is not required under federal law to publicly disclose donors. As a charitable organization, it is barred from engaging in political activity or supporting political candidates, and while most “dark money” groups are 501(C)(4)s for this reason, (C)(3)s operate with similar opacity in regard to their funding sources, though many publicly disclose their donors in the interest of transparency.

501(C)(3)s are also required to remain true to their founding purpose unless they notify the IRS in advance of the change in purpose.

An organization with a long history of little income and zero salaries appears from the lien documents to have paid more in compensation in the first four months of 2019, than it had collected in gross income for more than five years. Where did the money come from and what was CDLU doing to attract this kind of investor?

In his writings, Forbes has made it clear that paying Newsome would make the attacks on Balch & Bingham and the firm’s clients go away.

Excerpts from an article Forbes has posted at least twice summarize the central focus of his efforts:

So, we ask, would it not have been cheaper to simply resolve the Newsome Conspiracy Case for $3 million? If Balch & Bingham had simply reached out to us, the CDLU, and tried to resolve the Newsome Conspiracy Case in early 2017, this blog would not exist and our advocacy efforts at the CDLU would not be focused on educating the public, law enforcement, legislators, corporate leadership, and institutional investors on Wall Street about Balch & Bingham's alleged unsavory if not criminal conduct. When Newsome originally wanted to settle this matter, back in 2015, his legal team asked for three things: An apology. The end of the tracking of Newsome's banking cases by Balch partners. $150,000 for revenue lost from the alleged defamation. Balch rejected the offer and now that decision has cost them millions and millions more to come.

Forbes’s words would seem to indicate that he set out to harm Balch & Bingham to force them to pay Newsome.

Is Forbes attacking the firm’s clients to coerce a payment to Newsome? Did someone pay CDLU hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2019, as is indicated by the tax lien. Did Forbes pay his friend Newsome all or any of this money? Where did the money come from and who did Forbes pay?

Nonprofit organizations like CDLU do not have to reveal their donors. But during 2019, Forbes’ attacks on Balch & Bingham’s clients took on a wide-ranging field of subjects.

Politicos, who spoke with APR, posed the following questions: Did someone recognize that Forbes had created a communication channel through which they could accomplish goals that had nothing to do with Burt Newsome? Was a rival law firm paying Forbes to attack Balch to steal Balch’s clients? Could environmental groups or their supporters be paying Forbes to attack utility companies? Were Washington-based lobbying firms paying Forbes to bolster their efforts to take Balch’s national lobbying contracts?

The answer to these questions would easily be resolved if Forbes revealed who was paying him.

Forbes has indicated in writing that “this blog would not exist” if someone would just write Newsome a very large check.

Forbes has attacked clients of Balch & Bingham and told the clients the attacks would go away if they forced Balch to settle with Newsome, according to APR‘s sources.

A veteran of hundreds of legal skirmishes who, like others, asked not to be quoted because of Forbes’ propensity to write unfounded accusations, said Forbes’ actions in his opinion rose to extortion and torturous interference of business.

Forbes has never fully explained why his nonprofit moved from California to Alabama, nor why CDLU’s mission changed from Latino advocacy in Los Angeles to attacking a Birmingham law firm and its client.

When social media hoaxes and fake news are trade craft, there is a ready market for blogs like BanBalch.com, insiders believe.

The question that may need answering by law-enforcement is what is going on at CDLU that would allow them to operate Banbalch.com under a cloak of federally sanctioned secrecy?

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Crime

Tenth state inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19

As of Tuesday, 97 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19.

Eddie Burkhalter

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As of Tuesday, 97 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19. (Stock photo)

A tenth Alabama inmate has died after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the state.

Raymond Earl Allen, 59, who was serving at the St. Clair Correctional Facility died Monday at a local hospital, where he had been taken after exhibiting symptoms for coronavirus, the Alabama Department of Corrections said Tuesday. 

Allen was considered high-risk because he had end-stage renal disease, according to ADOC. 

ADOC also said another inmate at St. Clair has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases among inmates at the prison to 28. Six workers at the prison have also tested positive for the virus. 

The department also announced that four workers at the Kilby Correctional Facility, two at the Fountain Correctional Facility and one at the Alex City Community Based Facility and Community Work Center also tested positive for COVID-19. 

As of Tuesday, 97 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, while 28 have since recovered. Of the state’s approximately 22,000 inmates, 490 have been tested. Of the 184 confirmed cases among prison staff, 100 have recovered. 

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Two prison workers at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Woman have died after testing positive for coronavirus. There have been confirmed cases of the virus in 27 of the state’s 32 facilities.

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Alabama lawmaker pre-files legislation to allow removal of Confederate monuments

If passed, the measure would permit counties and cities to relocate historic monuments currently located on public property.

Brandon Moseley

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A Confederate monument in Birmingham's Linn Park was removed. As have monuments and memorials in Mobile and on the campus of the University of Alabama.

Alabama State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, introduced legislation this week in advance of the 2021 legislative session that, if passed, would permit counties and cities to relocate historic monuments currently located on public property. Givan’s bill, HB8, would also provide for the relocation of historic memorials to sites appropriate for public display.

“Across the state of Alabama, citizens are calling for the removal of prominently placed statues and monuments that are insensitive or offensive to the communities that surround them,” Givan said. “City and county governments must be able to address the demands of their citizens. This legislation provides a tool for local governments to safely remove these artifacts so that they can be moved to a site more appropriate for preserving or displaying the historical monument.”

Removing the monuments and historical markers is currently illegal under Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act, which the state Legislature passed in 2017. Givan has been an outspoken opponent of that Republican-sponsored legislation. In 2018, Givan introduced a measure to repeal the bill that barred the removal of monuments.

“I believe HB8 can achieve bipartisan support,” Givan said. “My bill seeks to balance the wishes of the people. It respects the will of communities that want the monuments removed. It also respects those who wish to preserve history. With this legislation, Confederate monuments could be relocated to a public site, like Confederate Memorial Park, whose purpose and mission is to interpret and tell these stories. When the Legislature convenes, I hope to have the support of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.”

If enacted, HB8 would permit county and municipal governments to remove memorial monuments, including permanent statues, portraits and markers, located on public property in their jurisdictions. It would require a transfer of ownership of the removed monuments to the Alabama Department of Archives and History or the Alabama Historical Commission. Finally, the bill would instruct Archives and History or the Historical Commission to maintain and display monuments removed by local authorities in a location accessible for public display.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps track of Confederate monuments and memorials across the country, released an update to its Whose Heritage report, which tracks symbols of the Confederacy on public land across the United States. They report at least 30 Confederate symbols have been removed or relocated since George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

These include 24 monuments removed, 5 monuments relocated and the Mississippi state flag replaced. Since the Charleston church shooting in 2015, 115 total symbols have been removed from public spaces. These include 87 monuments that have been removed or relocated from public spaces. At least 78 monuments were removed and nine were relocated.

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SPLC says there are still nearly 1,800 Confederate symbols on public land, and 739 of those symbols are monuments. The SPLC has prepared an “action guide” to help community activists target Confederate historical markers and memorials for removal.

President Donald Trump has denounced what he calls “cancel culture” that seeks to remove historical monuments and statutes.

“There is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for, struggled, they bled to secure,” Trump said. “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.”

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