A federal grand jury indicted another Alabama Republican lawmaker this week as part of an ongoing public corruption probe that has already seen the indictment of Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia Hills.
Rep. Randy Davis, R-Daphne, who is 66, was arrested and indicted Wednesday on charges of conspiracy and bribery. Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama say Davis worked with former House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, an investor in the diabetes clinics, which were operated by Trina Health.
Hammon pleaded guilty to a mail fraud charge last year.
Federal prosecutors charged Davis in the new superseding indictment along with co-defendants G. Ford Gilbert, 70, from Carmichael, California, and Martin J. “Marty” Connors, 61, from Alabaster. The prosecutors say Davis participated in an improbable attempt to pressure Alabama’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, to cover insulin therapies offered at Trina’s health clinics while he had a financial interest in those clinics and stood to gain from seeing their treatments covered.
The clinics offered an intravenous insulin treatment, OIVIT, for those with diabetes. The Centers for Disease Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a decision in 2009 stopping coverage of the treatment.
Davis, who was elected in 2002 and is not seeking re-election, is accused of lobbying BCBS on behalf of Trina and working with Hammon to recruit new investors for Trina Health in return for finders’ fees. In 2016, Davis and Hammon worked to push a bill through the Legislature that would force coverage of the treatment, prosecutors said, and he met with then-Gov. Robert Bentley.
Prosecutors said Gilbert — the CEO of Trina health, the California based company that operates the treatment clinics all over the U.S. and in some foreign countries — then made payments to and gave things of value to Hammon in exchange for his efforts behind the scenes to push the bill.
In 2014 and 2015, Trina opened three clinics in Alabama. Shortly thereafter, BCBS told Trina it would no longer cover the treatments in question. That’s when, according to prosecutors and previous indictments, Gilbert decided to hatch a plan to push the insurer — which is also a powerful political force in the state — to change its position on the treatment coverage.
It’s unlikely Hammon, Davis or any legislator could force BCBS to change such a decision, given their political prowess in the state.
Prosecutors say Gilbert also hired Connors as a lobbyist on behalf of the bill, and Connors knew of Gilbert’s payments to Hammon.
Davis took several steps to advance the bill that would have forced coverage of the treatment. Trina would have stood to gain financially if the state’s largest insurer covered their treatment. Prosecutors wrote in the indictment that Davis helped recruit a sponsor for the bill, arrange a public hearing to be video recorded and spoke in favor of the bill at a public hearing.
The grand jury’s indictment charges Davis, Gilbert, and Connors with conspiracy to commit bribery related to federal program and alleges Gilbert committed various acts of bribery related to federal programs. Gilbert and Davis were also charged with interstate travel and communications in aid of racketeering. The last count in the new indictment alleges Connors made a false statement to a federal agent.
In total, Davis faces three federal charges. He appeared at Montgomery’s federal courthouse Wednesday.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, significant monetary penalties, asset forfeiture and restitution, the Department of Justice said.
The United States Postal Inspection Service investigated the case with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
When Davis announced he wouldn’t seek re-election for his seat in the Alabama House, he announced a bid for Baldwin County probate judge. He later dropped that bid.
Hammon stepped down in 2017 as House majority leader before pleading guilty to devising a scheme to commit mail fraud related to his campaign account in September 2017. That was the first charge and conviction in this case, which has grown to include several Republican lawmakers.
Hammon was automatically removed from office when he pleaded guilty to the felony. Prosecutors said Hammon used campaign money to pay his own personal expenses, writing checks from his campaign committee account and depositing them into his personal account.
Hammon was sentenced to three months in prison and was released late last month.
Gilbert and Williams were first indicted in April as part of the same Trina scheme. Prosecutors said Williams held a public hearing on the bill requiring BCBS to cover the treatment despite knowing that Hammon had financial stake in Trina.
Williams has said he’s innocent.
The indictment names an individual “C.B.” who knew Gilbert and Hammon. He approached Hammon in 2014, making him a proposal that if he could recruit new investors, he would get him an ownership stake in the company. Later, Hammon would bring Davis on board with a similar promise, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors cited an email from Davis to Hammon, which said he hoped they “could make millions” on the deal. Trina had promised the clinics would be profitable.
Hammon attempted to evade required disclosure of his stake in the company by lowering it from 5 percent to 4 percent, which would have fallen under the disclosure thresholds of Alabama law.
Prosecutors say Davis also tried to persuade another state representative, listed only as “State Representative C” in the indictment, to help them change BCBS’s position on the diabetes treatment.
“Aware of Representative Hammon’s previous involvement with BCBS-AL and Davis’ close relationship with Hammon, State Representative C asked whether Davis was acting for the purpose of benefitting Hammon,” the indictment reads. “Davis replied that he was motivated only by a desire to help the diabetic patients who resided in his legislative district.”
The bill never became law.
Hammon, Williams and Davis aren’t the only lawmakers facing legal trouble with federal prosecutors. Another Republican lawmaker, State Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, was indicted and arrested last month in connection with a pill farm operation in Montgomery.
Henry was indicted on over a dozen charges that included health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and unlawful kickbacks. Henry owned an operated a healthcare company, MyPractice24, which was paying various kickbacks to Montgomery physician Dr. Gilberto Sanchez in return for Sanchez’s practice referring Medicare beneficiaries to MyPractice24 for chronic care management.
Among the kickbacks were direct payments to a staff member at Sanchez’s practice, free chronic care management services, free billing services and free clinic services. Henry, who maintains his innocence, was the 14th person indicted in the pill mill scandal.
Democratic State Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham, pleaded guilty to bribery charges last year.
Judge finds Alabama drivers license policy for trans people unconstitutional
Judge Myron Thompson found that the state’s law did not meet the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause.
A federal judge on Friday ruled that Alabama’s driver’s license policy with respect to transgender people was unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson on Friday ruled in favor of the three transgender plaintiffs. The three sued the state over its requirements that transgender people get surgery — or a court order that typically requires proof of surgery — to receive a driver’s license with their correct gender.
Plaintiffs Darcy Corbitt, Destiny Clark and an unnamed third individual sued the state after being denied driver’s licenses. They were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama.
“Nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court recognized that the Equal Protection Clause demands special skepticism of state actions that impose sex-based classifications,” Thompson wrote in his order. The Court soon settled on the standard of scrutiny that this court applies today, instructing that “classifications by gender must serve important governmental objectives and must be substantially related to achievement of those objectives.”
“Neither ‘benign justifications’ nor an absence of discriminatory intent prevents a sex-based law from being subject to this scrutiny,” Thompson continued in his order, finding that the state’s interest in upholding the law did not meet the obligation that the Equal Protection Clause imposes.
“I know who I am, and finally the state of Alabama will be required to respect me and provide an accurate driver’s license,” Corbitt said in a statement provided by the ACLU of Alabama. “Since my out-of-state license expired, I have had to rely on friends and family to help me pick up groceries, get to church, and get to my job. I missed a family member’s funeral because I just had no way to get there. But the alternative — lying about who I am to get an Alabama license that endangered and humiliated me every time I used it — was not an option. I’m relieved that I will be able to drive again. While much work remains, this decision will make Alabama a safer place for me and other transgender people.”
“I’m thrilled the court found that Alabama’s surgery requirement was unconstitutional, and I hope other states that still have similar rules will change them without being taken to court,” said Gabriel Arkles, senior counsel for the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, in a statement. “Trans people are the experts on our own genders, and we have the right to equal access to ID we can safely use. We will keep fighting dangerous and discriminatory policies like these until none remain.”
Tish Gotell Faulks, legal director for the ACLU of Alabama, said the court rightfully saw that the state does not have a right to determine which medical procedures a person has, nor can they force surgery on an entire class of people.
“A growing number of states have realized that providing accurate driver’s licenses is the right, and lawful, thing to do. The ACLU will monitor what this decision looks like in practice to ensure that transgender people are treated fairly at offices around the state of Alabama,” Faulks said.
Alabama officials watching for possible armed protests
The Montgomery Police Department will have officers at the Capitol on Sunday, girding for potentially violent demonstrations.
It wasn’t clear Friday whether armed protestors would show up at Alabama’s Capitol building this weekend after an FBI internal report this week warned that there were plans for armed demonstrations in state capitals across the country until Inauguration Day.
First reported by ABC News and corroborated by numerous other news outlets, the FBI’s memo warns that continued violence targeting state capitols remains possible between now and President-elect-Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to the Associated Press.
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency spokeswoman Robyn Bryan, in a message to APR on Friday, said the agency continues to monitor activity for public safety concerns “and possible threats related to the ongoing protests across the nation.”
“ALEA recognizes that United States Citizens have constitutionally protected rights to assemble, speak, and petition the government. ALEA safeguards these first amendment rights, and reports on only those activities where the potential use of rhetoric and/or propaganda could be used to carry out acts of violence,” Bryan continued. “Additionally, potential criminality exhibited by certain members of a group does not negate the constitutional rights of the group itself or its law-abiding participants to exercise their individual liberties under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The Montgomery Police Department on Friday issued a warning in a tweet to anyone who might plan to bring a firearm to a demonstration.
“Be mindful that it shall be unlawful for any person, other than a law enforcement officer, to have a firearm in his or her possession or in any vehicle at a point within 1,000 feet of a demonstration at a public place,” the department said in the tweet, citing a portion of Alabama’s state law.
Montgomery Police will have officers at the Capitol on Sunday, Capt. Saba Coleman of the Montgomery Police Department said in a message to APR on Friday.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that Trump’s army of domestic terrorists came close to mounting the first successful coup in American history,” said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, speaking to reporters Friday during a briefing on a report the group released on right-wing extremists attempting to overshadow Biden’s inauguration.
“Now our nation stands at the edge of the abyss. Threats of violence are steadily escalating, with some of Trump’s followers talking openly of civil war. Law enforcement personnel are bracing for potential violence this weekend at the armed protests planned for Washington D.C. and all 50 state capitals,” Huang said.
Michael Hayden, lead investigative reporter at the SPLC, told reporters during the briefing that the odds for violence “are a lot higher than I’ve seen in a long time.”
“And that’s largely to do with the rhetoric that we’re seeing,” Hayden said.
The chances of far-right extreme groups coming together for another large event in Washington D.C. in the coming days is less likely because of the additional security measures in place since the Capitol attack, Hayden said, adding that leaders of some of the larger extremist groups have urged followers not to go to Washington D.C.
“I’m not saying it’s impossible to generate a large crowd in Washington D.C. I’m just saying that there are huge obstacles that they did not face on January 6, and it’s missing that sort of galvanizing moment of the Trump rally,” Hayden said.
Demonstrations at state capitols are far more likely to galvanize crowds, Hayden said. In his work monitoring extremists online he has seen the sharing of maps of state capitols, dotted with pinpoints where groups want people to go, he said.
Some states have publicized bolstered security around their capitols, a sign that perhaps those state officials have more information about possible threats than SPLC has access to, Hayden said.
New unemployment claims increased again last week
It is the highest number of new claims recorded in a single week since July.
There were 14,084 new unemployment claims filed last week, up from 10,986 new claims the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
The number of new claims was the highest in a single week since July.
Of last week’s claims, 11,124 were related to COVID-19, representing 79 percent. Of the previous week’s claims, 80 percent were related to COVID-19.
SPLC responds to arrest of man carrying Confederate flag inside U.S. Capitol
Kevin Seefried and his son, Hunter, face multiple charges connected with their alleged part in the deadly Capitol riot.
Widely shared images of a white man carrying a Confederate flag across the floor of the U.S. Capitol during last week’s deadly attempted insurrection is a jarring reminder of the treasonous acts that killed more than 750,000 Americans during the Civil War, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Just as defeated Confederate soldiers were forced to surrender the Civil War and end their inhumane treatment of Black people, the rioter who brazenly carried a Confederate flag into the Capitol has been forced to surrender to federal authorities,” said Lecia Brooks, chief of staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a statement Friday following the arrests of Kevin Seefried, 51, and his 23-year-old son Hunter.
FBI Baltimore: Man carrying Confederate flag in Capitol last week turned himself in today in Wilmington. Name is Kevin Seefried. Son Hunter also arrested. pic.twitter.com/ZTSGzbesDF
— Jayne Miller (@jemillerwbal) January 14, 2021
Seefried, the Baltimore man allegedly seen in those photographs carrying the Confederate flag, and his son are charged with entering a restricted building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Hunter is also charged with destroying government property.
“Incited by the President’s disinformation campaign, the rioter’s decision to brazenly roam the halls of Congress clinging to this painful symbol of white supremacy was a jarring display of boundless white privilege,” Brooks’s statement reads. “Despite the revisionist history promoted by enthusiasts, his disgraceful display is proof that the Confederate flag clearly represents hate, not heritage.”
“Over 750,000 American lives were lost because of the Confederacy’s treasonous acts. We cannot allow more blood to be shed for efforts to split our Union. January’s immoral coup attempt is an embarrassment to the United States, and we call on the federal government to prosecute these insurrectionists to the fullest extent of the law.”
An affidavit detailing the charges states that videos taken during the riot show both Seefrieds enter the Capitol building through a broken window, that Hunter helped break, at about 2:13 p.m.
Both men on Jan. 12 voluntarily talked with FBI agents and admitted to their part in the riots, according to court records.
The elder Seefreid told the FBI agent that he traveled to the rally to hear Trump speak and that he and his son joined the march and were “led by an individual with a bull horn.”
There were numerous pro-Trump attendees at the rally and march to the Capitol who had bull horns, according to multiple videos taken that day, but at the front of one of the largest groups of marchers with a bull horn was far-right radio personality Alex Jones, who was walking next to Ali Alexander, organizer of the Stop the Steal movement.
Alexander in three separate videos has said he planned the rally, meant to put pressure on Congress voting inside the Capitol that day, with Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, and Arizona U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs. Alexander is now in hiding, according to The Daily Beast.
Congressman Brooks’s spokesman told APR on Tuesday that Brooks does not remember communicating with Alexander.
“Congressman Brooks has no recollection of ever communicating in any way with whoever Ali Alexander is. Congressman Brooks has not in any way, shape or form coordinated with Ali Alexander on the January 6th ‘Save America’ rally,” the statement from the congressman’s spokesman reads.
Jones and Alexander can be seen leading the march in a video taken and posted to Twitter by freelance journalist Raven Geary.
“This is history happening. We’re not giving into globalists. We’ll never surrender,” Jones yells into his bullhorn as they marched toward the Capitol.