Tuesday, Congressmen Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) were two of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks.
FreedomWorks is a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide.
Only members of Congress who score better than 90 on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award.
Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top four percent of all Congressmen in 2017.
Rep. Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017.”
Congressman Palmer said, “I was honored to receive the Freedom Fighter Award this week from FreedomWorks.”
FreedomWorks President, Adam Brandon, said, “The recipients of the FreedomFighter Award showed a commitment in 2017 to pro-growth economic policies and constitutionally limited government. We’re proud to recognize these senators and representatives. Our work is still cut out for us. Now that we have reduced some regulations and passed a historic tax reform bill, we must continue to pressure Congress to reduce spending to ensure that the prosperity we are seeing now is lasts into the future.”
FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Jason Pye, said, “The winners of the 2017 FreedomFighter Award deserve applause. These members take tough votes, often going against the leadership of their own party, because they want to do what is right by taxpayers. But consistency is key. America is staring down massive budget deficits as a result of the fiscal profligacy of this Congress. We have to continue working to put our country on a sustainable path, repeal ObamaCare, promote free trade, and continue to rollback the regulatory state.”
“If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great,” Brooks said. “I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”
Congressman Mo Brooks represents the Fifth Congressional District of Alabama.
Congressman Gary Palmer represents the Sixth Congressional District of Alabama.
Both Brooks and Palmer are members of the House Freedom Caucus.
Both congressmen have Democratic general election opponents.
Sessions says Alabama doesn’t take orders from Washington after Trump inserts himself in race again
GOP Senate candidate and former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, released a statement pushing back against President Donald Trump’s endorsement of his opponent, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, in which he said “Alabama does not take orders from Washington.”
The blunt comments were in response to a Twitter post from Trump once again inserting himself in the Alabama Senate race.
“I’ve taken the road less travelled,” Sessions said. “Not sought fame or fortune. My honor and integrity are far more important than these juvenile insults. Your scandal ridden candidate is too cowardly to debate. As you know, Alabama does not take orders from Washington.”
This was after Trump tweeted, “Big Senate Race in Alabama on Tuesday. Vote for @TTuberville, he is a winner who will never let you down. Jeff Sessions is a disaster who has let us all down. We don’t want him back in Washington!”
Trump has called his decision to appoint Sessions as U.S. attorney general his “biggest mistake” as president.
The rift between the two former friends began in 2017 when Sessions, newly appointed as attorney general, recused himself from the Russian collusion investigation. Sessions has steadfastly defended the decision and continues to maintain that he was forbidden by U.S. Department of Justice policy forbidding anyone who was part of a campaign from investigating that campaign.
Sessions was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump in the 2016 presidential election and worked tirelessly throughout 2016 as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.
Sessions maintains that had he not recused himself from the Russian collusion investigation things would have gone worse for Trump. As it was, his duties in the matter fell on fellow Trump appointee Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel.
The special counsel investigation successfully prosecuted a number of close Trump associates for various failings in their personal and professional lives, but ultimately never was able to indict the president or a member of the Trump family, and it never was able to produce tangible evidence that the 2016 Trump campaign was involved in collusion with Russian intelligence agencies to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Sessions is running for the Senate seat he gave up to be attorney general.
Tuberville has been avoiding the media since a New York Times report detailed how Tuberville’s business partner David Stroud cheated investors out of their savings and was sentenced to ten years in prison. The two had formed a hedge fund, managed by Stroud, a former Lehman Brothers broker. Tuberville maintains that he was Stroud’s biggest victim, but the investors sued Tuberville, who settled out of court.
Sessions’ campaign maintains that incumbent Sen. Doug Jones’ campaign will capitalize on the scandal during the general election similarly to how they capitalized on allegations against former Chief Justice Roy Moore to win the 2017 special election to win the Senate seat vacated by Sessions to be attorney general.
Sessions was a late entrant into the Senate campaign. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, has endorsed Sessions.
“Jeff Sessions is a good friend and a respected former colleague,” Shelby wrote. “I believe he is well-suited to return to his role as United States Senator for the state of Alabama, where I served with him for more than 20 years. He has my full support and endorsement.”
Sessions was Senator from 1997 to 2017. He was U.S. Attorney General from 2017 to Nov. 2018. Prior to his Senate service, he served the state as Alabama Attorney General, Republican Party Chairman, and U.S. Attorney under Presidents Ronald W. Reagan (R) and George H. Bush (R). Sessions was also a former assistant U.S. Attorney and a U.S. Army reserve officer. He is a native of Alabama who grew up outside of Camden in rural Wilcox County.
The Republican primary runoff is on Tuesday. In order to vote in any Alabama election you must: be registered to vote, vote at your assigned polling place, and have a valid photo ID. It is too late to register to vote in this election or obtain an absentee ballot; but if you have an absentee ballot today is the last day to return it either through mail or by hand delivering it to your courthouse absentee ballot manager’s office.
Black disabled veteran sentenced to spend 60 months in prison for medical marijuana
A 2016 arrest for marijuana that has turned into a 60-month sentence in an Alabama penitentiary for a disabled veteran from Arizona is drawing national attention.
On June 30, Alabama Appleseed Director Leah Nelson wrote an account of an arrest and pending imprisonment of a Black disabled veteran that could not have happened in many other states. The story has been picked up by the New York Times and a number of national news outlets.
Black disabled veteran Sean Worsley and his wife, Eboni, were arrested in Pickens County in August 2016. The Worsleys had visited Eboni’s family in Mississippi and were on their way to North Carolina to visit his family. They however made the life-altering mistake of stopping to purchase gas in Alabama on their way to NC.
Sean was wounded in Iraq. The 33-year-old veteran is disabled with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in Iraq. He uses medical marijuana to calm his nightmares and soothe his back pain. His medical marijuana was prescribed and purchased in Arizona, where it has been legal since 2011.
A Gordo police officer approached the Worsleys at the gas station. He said their music was too loud, was a violation of the Gordo noise ordinance and asked to search the vehicle. The Worsleys assented believing they had broken no laws. That was a mistake. Marijuana is still illegal in Alabama even if you purchased it in one of the states where it is legal.
The officer said that he smelled marijuana and asked the couple about it. Sean told him he was a disabled veteran and had a medical marijuana card.
“I explained to him that Alabama did not have medical marijuana. I then placed the suspect in handcuffs,” the report reads.
Eboni told the officer that the marijuana was behind the seat. The officer found the marijuana and the rolling papers and pipe Sean used to smoke it, along with a six-pack of beer, a bottle of vodka, and some pain pills Eboni had a prescription for. Both of them were arrested.
Eboni’s pills weren’t in the original bottle, which the officer said constituted a felony. The couple were both charged and spent six days in jail, but that was just the beginning of their Alabama legal saga.
Once the Worsleys were released on bond, they paid $400 to get their car out of impound and had to have the car professionally cleaned because venison they had been transporting to North Carolina went bad.
When they returned to Arizona, they found the charges made it difficult for them to maintain housing and stability. They moved to Nevada and leased a house.
Almost a year later, the bail bondsman called and told them the Alabama judge was revoking bonds on all the cases he managed. They had to rush back, or he would lose the money he had put up for their bond, and they would be charged with failing to appear in court. They borrowed money to return to Alabama.
When they got to court, the Worsleys were taken to separate rooms. Eboni explained that Sean was disabled with serious cognitive issues and needed a guardian to help him understand the process and ensure he made an informed decision. Eboni claims that Sean told her that prosecutors told him that if he didn’t sign the plea agreement that they would have to stay incarcerated until December and that they would charge her with the same charges. Rather than see his wife go to jail he signed the agreement.
Sean’s plea agreement included 60 months of probation, plus drug treatment and thousands of dollars in fines, fees, and court costs. Because the Worsleys had lived in Arizona at the time of their arrest, his probation was transferred to Arizona, instead of Nevada, so they broke their lease agreement and moved back to Arizona. Sean’s Arizona probation officer however told them that their month-to-month rental did not constitute a permanent address. At her direction, they contacted Sean’s probation officer in Alabama, who told them to return to Pickens County. They were short on funds so tried to do it by proxy. Drug treatment was another part of the terms of the probation. Sean was denied treatment by the VA because smoking cannabis for medical purposes “does not meet criteria for a substance use disorder or meet need for substance abuse treatment.”
Eboni, is a certified nursing assistant who works with traumatized children. Her job offer was rescinded due to the felony charge in Alabama. She also lost her clearance to work with sensitive information to which she needed access to do her job. For a while, the Worsleys slept in their car or lived with family. In January 2019, they were homeless. Sean lost his homeless veteran benefits with the VA because Alabama had issued a fugitive warrant for his arrest after Sean had missed a February court date in Pickens County. The case was referred to the district attorney’s office in March 2019.
Now Eboni’s health failed and she needed heart surgery. Sean stop taking on extra gigs to help her recover. To cover costs, the couple took out a title loan and lost Eboni’s truck when they could not keep up with the payments. With no transportation they lost their home. Sean’s benefits resumed in August 2019, but to save money he failed to pay the $250 to renew his medical marijuana card. In 2020, Sean was arrested at a traffic stop in Arizona and the officer found that he possessed marijuana without a valid medical marijuana card.
Pickens County demanded that he be extradited back to Alabama at a cost to the state of Alabama of $4,345. That was added that to the $3,833.40 he already owed in fines, fees, and court costs. On April 28, the Pickens County judge sentenced Mr. Worsley to 60 months in prison. That sentence would already have begun; if it were not for the chronic prison overcrowding and the COVID-19 crisis that has gripped the prison system killing five inmates and two ADOC employees thus far.
Sean has been in the Pickens County jail since early 2020. On April 28, the judge revoked his probation and sentenced him to 60 months in the custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections.
Sean’s mother hired an attorney to appeal the case, but that process has just begun and most inmates begin their sentence while the case is under appeal. Former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) was sentenced to a four-year sentence four years ago and has not served a day; but Sean Worsley does not have the friends that Mike Hubbard has. He is in the Pickens County jail awaiting transport to prison in Alabama.
Eboni is in the hospital for more heart surgery and Sean will leave behind two children from a prior relationship, ages 12 and 14.
“I feel like I’m being thrown away by a country I went and served for,” Sean wrote in a letter to Alabama Appleseed. “I feel like I lost parts of me in Iraq, parts of my spirit and soul that I can’t ever get back.”
State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ward is aghast that this could happen in Alabama.
“This is an anomaly, this is not the norm,” Sen. Ward said. “Most police departments in Alabama do not arrest people any more solely for marijuana possession.”
Ward said usually when someone is charged with marijuana possession they are charged with other felonies and marijuana possession is an add on charge.
Ward said that marijuana possession is a class D offence under the sentencing reform package that he sponsored and which passed the Alabama legislature in 2016. With a class D offense there is no prison time.
In Sean Worsley’s case, the arresting officer in Gordo determined that the marijuana was not for personal use and thus charged Sean with a Class C offense. The arresting officer is no longer with the Gordo police department.
Ward told APR that out of the 23,000 inmates in the Alabama Correctional system there are only 60 or 70 that are in there just for marijuana offenses.
“They got arrested for a whole truckload, semi-truckloads even, for trafficking,” Ward said, not the small amount that Worsley will lose five years of freedom over.
Ward said that the state passed sentencing reform in 2016 so that things like this could not happen; but there was a lag time between passage and implementation so Worsley was likely charged under the pre-reform standards.
Chey Garrigan is the Executive Director of Alabama Cannabis Industry Association.
Garrigan said that her non-profit advocacy group is fighting to change Alabama’s marijuana laws so that medical marijuana is legal in this state and so that travelers like Sean Worsley don’t have to fear long incarcerations for amounts of marijuana that would be legal in 33 states.
“The Alabama Cannabis Industry Association, is extremely passionate about working with policy makers to bring about a necessary compassion for social justice,” Garrigan told APR.
The Alabama Senate has passed medical marijuana bills, sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) in both 2019 and 2020; but the bills have never come before the Alabama House of Representatives for a vote. This year the legislative session was interrupted by the coronavirus crisis before the House could consider the Senate bill.
U.S. Attorney Jay Town announces resignation
Jay Town, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, on Friday announced his resignation and plans to work at a Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company.
Town’s resignation will be effective Wednesday, July 15, according to a press release.
“After much thoughtful prayer and great personal consideration, I have made the decision to resign as the United States Attorney of the Northern District of Alabama. I have tendered my resignation to Attorney General William Barr. General Barr expressed his gratitude for my service to the Department of Justice and to the Northern District and, despite having hoped I would continue in my role, understood and respected my decision,” Town said in a statement.
“I am extremely grateful to President Trump, to whom I also tendered a letter, for his special trust and confidence in me to serve as the U.S. Attorney. It was an honor to be a part of this Administration with an unrivaled class of United States Attorneys from around the nation. I will forever remain thankful to those who supported my nomination and my tenure as the U.S. Attorney,” Town continued.
Town said his job with the unnamed Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company is to begin later this year, and the company is to announce his position “in a few weeks.”
“The Attorney General of the United States will announce my replacement in the coming days or weeks,” Town said in the release.
Town has served in his position since confirmation by the U.S. Senate in August 2017. Prior to that appointment, Town was a prosecutor in the Madison County District Attorney’s office from 2005 until 2017.
Attorney General William Barr in a statement Friday offered gratitude for Town’s three years of service.
“Jay’s leadership in his District has been immense. His contributions to the Department of Justice have been extensive, especially his work on the China Initiative and most recently as a Working Group Chair on the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. I appreciate his service to our nation and to the Justice Department, and I wish him the very best,” Barr said in a statement.
The U.S. Justice Department in April 2019 notified Gov. Kay Ivey that the department’s lengthy investigation into the state’s prisons for men found systemic problems of violence, sexual assaults, drugs and corruption which are likely violations of the inmates’ Constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment.
Town’s office leads the discussions between the U.S Department of Justice and the state on the prison conditions.
Problems with violence, deaths and drugs in Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed prisons have not markedly improved in the year’s since the U.S. Department of Justice released its report.
Commissioner praises prison employees for putting lives on the line during pandemic
Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn on Thursday praised the department’s employees for “literally putting their lives on the line” coming into work during the COVID-19 crisis. Dunn was speaking to the Alabama State Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee, which is holding budget hearings in Montgomery.
“I cannot praise them enough,” Dunn said. “They are going into the facility knowing that it (the coronavirus) is there. Not just our corrections officers but also our healthcare workers.”
“Many of our workers are single moms,” Dunn said. “We have several families where both the husband and wife work for the department and they have children and they are coming to work each day.”
“188 of our staff have self-reported” being coronavirus positive, Dunn said. “109 of them have already been able to return to work. That is a tribute to the dedication of our staff. Unfortunately, we have had two employee deaths.”
“We are working on an expanded testing protocol, so we can eventually test the entire inmate population and can offer testing to our staff,” Dunn said. Employees also have the option of going to their doctor for testing.
“To this point we have tested 523 inmates, 2 percent of our population, and that number will continue to expand,” Dunn assured legislators.
Dunn said COVID-19 has negatively impacted ADOC’s efforts to hire more corrections officers. They have had to cancel job fairs and some new officer trainings due to the coronavirus shutdown. Dunn assured the senators that there has been progress in addressing the staffing issues that have been cited in a lawsuit in federal court.
Dunn said that to this point in 2020, ADOC has had a net increase of 150 corrections officers. The Department has made 455 new hires, but has lost 305 due to attrition for a net gain of 150.
Dunn showed a graph to the state Senators showing that the number of corrections officers working at ADOC peaked at around 2,000 in 2011. Since then the number of officers has declined precipitously dropping to as low as 1100, before beginning to rise in the last year.
“Our hiring efforts have been slowed down by COVID-19,” Dunn explained
Dunn said that they are talking with many candidates who are interested once their unemployment runs out. “We have a whole pool of folks who are waiting and seeing.”
“We always understood that this was going to be a process,” Dunn told Senators.
“Our personnel budget next year is $300 million,” Dunn said. “We have reduced our overtime over $300,000 this year. We have a much tighter management control over that. Part of that reduction is due to the increase in staffing.
Committee Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, told Dunn, “The over is a very sensitive matter.”
Dunn said that any savings from reducing overtime is being used to pay for the new hires.
Dunn said that the prisons are currently operating at 155 percent capacity. Dunn predicted that once the state builds the three new mega-prisons currently in the bid process that ADOC will be operating at 120 to 125 percent capacity. Dunn said that the state has determined from the California case that 137 percent capacity is right at about the line where the federal courts would intervene. ADOC has set the capacity goal at 120 to 125 percent to have a buffer percentage.
ADOC is funded in the State General Fund (SGF) budget. Alabama has an arcane budgeting system where over 90 percent of state funds are earmarked and there are two separate budgets: the SGF and the state education trust fund budget (ETF). Alabama historically has underfunded its prisons and has long neglected its aging prison infrastructure.
COVID-19 remains a very serious problem in Alabama. 2,064 Alabamians were reported positive on Thursday and another ten died, taking Alabama’s death toll to 1,042.