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Defense attorneys call for AG to drop charges against Selma police officers

Brandon Moseley

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Attorney General Steve Marshall

Attorneys Julian McPhillips Jr. and David Sawyer are holding a news conference in Montgomery Thursday to again ask Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall to drop charges against three Black Selma Police Officers who were re-indicted on felony charges of lying to the attorney general.

McPhillips and Sawyer say that Marshall’s actions caused the three Selma Police Officers — Jeff Hardy, Tori Neeley and Kendall Thomas — to all be re-indicted, a move that the defense attorneys call unprecedented.

“For almost two years, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Arrington, assigned to the case, has refused to specify what the lie is, or was,” McPhillips and Sawyer wrote. “There has been no particulars as to any crime alleged, such as time, place, persons, things, and other details.”

McPhillips and Sawyer also are asking Marshall to stop issuing motions to recuse African-American judges in Lowndes County from the case. The first judge was Judge Collins Pettaway.

In July, the Court of Criminal Appeals granted the AG’s motion to remove Pettaway.

The AG’s office has said that the officers are being accused of “lying about the condition of the evidence room” and “lying about whether they were not allowed to re-enter the evidence room until they received permission from the Attorney General.”

The officers allegedly said the evidence room was “left in disarray” and the attorney general’s office said, “oh no, it was not in disarray.” Such differences are a matter of opinion, and not the subject of a criminal indictment, McPhillips says.

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“Such a petty dispute, driven apparently by rivalry, jealously, and/or racism from the Attorney General’s Office is unbecoming the highest law enforcement office in Alabama,” charged McPhillips.

Now, the attorney general’s office is seeking to remove Judge Marvin Wiggins — who is also African-American and was just recently assigned to the case.

The attorneys say that before calling this news conference, they tried twice to speak with Marshall about their concerns in this case but were rebuffed both times.

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McPhillips and Sawyer are renewing their call on Marshall to dismiss the cases against the law enforcement officers, because the charges “are frivolous, irresponsible, racially discriminatory, and counter-productive to good law enforcement.”

McPhillips and Sawyer promise to reveal even more of the “unseemly details” at the news conference with all three policemen present and speaking in their own defense.

If Marshall refuses to dismiss the case, McPhillips and Sawyer are calling upon him to immediately cease all efforts to remove Wiggins.

The defense attorneys stated that this second recusal request is unfounded, highly racially prejudicial, discriminatory and unsavory.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Lilly Ledbetter speaks about her friendship with Ginsburg

Micah Danney

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Lilly Ledbetter spoke during a virtual campaign event with Sen. Doug Jones on Sept. 21.

When anti-pay-discrimination icon and activist Lilly Ledbetter started receiving mail from late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ledbetter’s attorney told her to save the envelopes. That’s how unusual it is to get personal mail from a member of the nation’s highest court.

Ledbetter, 82, of Jacksonville, Alabama, shared her memories of her contact with Ginsburg over the last decade during a Facebook live event hosted by Sen. Doug Jones on Monday.

Ginsburg famously read her dissent from the bench, a rare occurrence, in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. decision in 2007. The court ruled 5-4 to affirm a lower court’s decision that Ledbetter was not owed damages for pay discrimination because her suit was not filed within 180 days of the setting of the policy that led to her paychecks being less than those of her male colleagues. 

Ledbetter said that Ginsburg “gave me the dignity” of publicly affirming the righteousness of Ledbetter’s case, demonstrating an attention to the details of the suit.

Ginsburg challenged Congress to take action to prevent similar plaintiffs from being denied compensation due to a statute of limitations that can run out before an employee discovers they are being discriminated against. 

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was passed by Congress with broad bipartisan support and signed into law by President Barack Obama. It resets the statute of limitation’s clock with each paycheck that is reduced by a discriminatory policy.

Ledbetter said that her heart was heavy when she learned of Ginsburg’s death on Friday. The women kept in touch after they met in 2010. That was shortly after the death of Ginsburg’s husband, tax attorney Marty Ginsburg. She spoke about her pain to Ledbetter, whose husband Charles had died two years before.

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“So we both shared that, and we shared a tear,” said Ledbetter.

Ginsburg invited her to her Supreme Court chambers to see a framed copy of the act, next to which hung a pen that Obama used to sign it.

Ginsburg later sent Ledbetter a signed copy of a cookbook honoring her husband that was published by the Supreme Court Historical Society. Included with it was a personal note, as was the case with other pieces of correspondence from the justice that Ledbetter received at her home in Alabama. They were often brochures and other written materials that Ginsburg received that featured photos of both women.

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Ledbetter expressed her support for Jones in his race against GOP challenger Tommy Tuberville. The filling of Ginsburg’s seat is a major factor in that, she said.

“I do have to talk from my heart, because I am scared to death for the few years that I have yet to live because this country is not headed in the right direction,” she said.

She noted that Ginsburg was 60 when she was appointed to the court. Ledbetter said that she opposes any nominee who is younger than 55 because they would not have the experience and breadth of legal knowledge required to properly serve on the Supreme Court.

She said that issues like hers have long-term consequences that are made even more evident by the financial strains resulting from the pandemic, as she would have more retirement savings had she been paid what her male colleagues were.

Jones called Ledbetter a friend and hero of his.

“I’ve been saying to folks lately, if those folks at Goodyear had only done the right thing by Lilly Ledbetter and the women that worked there, maybe they’d still be operating in Gadsden these days,” he said.

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

Eddie Burkhalter

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(APR GRAPHIC/SUPREME COURT PORTRAIT)

United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a champion of women’s rights and voter protections on the nation’s highest court — died Friday at the age of 87 from complications from metastatic pancreas cancer.

The justice died at her home in Washington D.C., surrounded by family. Only the second woman ever to be appointed to the highest court in the nation, she served 27 years on the court, becoming a champion for women’s rights and voter protections. 

“This news is a devastating loss for our country and for all those who have been inspired by the inimitable Justice Ginsburg during her long and historic career. Justice Ginsburg led a life guided by principle and filled with purpose. A true trailblazer in the legal field in her own right, she inspired generations of young women to reach for heights that previously felt impossible. Through her quiet dignity, her willingness to bridge political divides, and her steady pursuit of justice, she was a standard-bearer for positive leadership,” Sen. Doug Jones said in a statement. 

“Her bold dissents in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Shelby County v. Holder cases are particularly meaningful to me, and to so many in Alabama and across the country. She stood for what was right and for the constitutional principles of equality and democracy that she held dear, even if it meant she was in the minority on the Court. As only the second woman to ever serve on the Court, she made full use of her opportunity to serve as a voice for women on the bench.

“Beyond her legal acumen, Justice Ginsburg will also be remembered for her sharp wit, her tireless advocacy for voting rights, and her historic role in fighting for a more equal society for women across the country. She will be greatly missed. Louise and I extend our sincerest condolences to Justice Ginsburg’s loved ones. We’re praying for them as they grieve this tremendous loss,” Jones said. 

Margaret Huang, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a statement Friday said that our country has lost a monumental and transformative figure. 

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not only a trailblazer, a hero, and a singular inspiration, she was also a deeply principled person who demonstrated great courage and conviction throughout her entire legal career,” Huang said. 

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“At the time of her appointment in 1993, Justice Ginsburg was only the second woman to be seated on the U.S. Supreme Court, but it wasn’t her first time in the Court. As director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, she argued and won five cases before the Justices. And from her first term, she made it her mission to guarantee equal protection for women and other marginalized communities. We are eternally grateful for her decades of work — and landmark achievements — in pursuit of this essential goal.

“In her later years, she became an icon for a younger generation. Her resolute determination for justice inspired millions, including all of us at the Southern Poverty Law Center. With her countless accomplishments in mind and some of her courage in our hearts, we recommit ourselves to continuing her mission to achieve justice and equity for all,” Huang continued.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said our nation has lost a justice of historic stature.

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“We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice,” Roberts said.

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Former Tallapoosa Soil and Water Conservation District employee convicted of theft

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Wednesday that the former district administrative coordinator for the Tallapoosa County Soil and Water Conservation District, Amanda M. Milford, has been convicted of theft of property in the first degree.

Milford, age 40, lives in Alexander City. She pleaded guilty to an information, a procedure in which felony charges are resolved without requiring grand jury involvement. She was sentenced by Tallapoosa County District Court Judge Kim Taylor to two years imprisonment and ordered to pay $59,473.13 in restitution.

Milford’s sentence of imprisonment was suspended and she was placed on probation for a period of five years.

An audit conducted by the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts discovered the theft, which was further investigated by the attorney general’s Special Prosecutions Division. Milford used her signature authority for bank accounts belonging to the Tallapoosa County Soil and Water Conservation District to steal public funds, duplicate travel expenses and alter her rate of pay to receive an inflated paycheck.

The district court ordered Milford to pay restitution for both the amount she stole from the Soil and Water Conservation District and non-sufficient funds fees incurred as a result of Milford’s theft.

Marshall commended his Special Prosecutions Division for its work in the case. He also expressed his appreciation for the assistance provided by the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts, the Tallapoosa County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Tallapoosa County District Attorney’s Office.

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Judge dismisses lawsuit against statewide face mask order

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey held a Coronavirus update press conference Wednesday, July 15, 2020 in Montgomery, Ala. (VIA GOVERNORS OFFICE/HAL YEAGER)

A Montgomery judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit alleging Gov. Kay Ivey’s statewide mask order was illegally adopted. 

Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin dismissed the lawsuit, filed by Debbie Mathis, a real estate agent, retired sheriff’s Deputies Larry Lewis and Barry Munza, which alleged that the Alabama Emergency Management Act of 1955 does not give the governor the ability to order Alabamians to wear face masks. 

Ivey’s order, which went into effect July 16, requires the wearing of face masks when within 6 feet of those outside of their own household when indoors or outside when in gatherings of 10 or more people, with exceptions. The lawsuit was filed against Ivey, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and the Alabama State Board of Health. 

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in the defendants’ motion to dismiss wrote, that the plaintiffs lacked standing to file the lawsuit and the defendants are immune to such lawsuits as accorded by the Alabama Constitution of 1901. 

In a court filing supporting the motion to dismiss, Marshall wrote that “COVID-19 has threatened to overwhelm the State’s healthcare system with a large number of patients in need of Intensive Care Unit (“ICU”) capacity.” 

“On July 15, 2020, with the State’s ICU bed capacity at 87 percent, Governor Ivey issued an emergency proclamation to implement State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris’s recommendation that masks or facial coverings be worn under certain circumstances,” Marshall wrote. 

Despite the plaintiff’s allegations that the order was illegal, Marshall wrote in the filing that Ivey and Dr. Harris had the authority to issue such an order. 

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The judge agreed and dismissed the case. The plaintiffs’ attorney said after the ruling that he planned to appeal the judge’s decision, according to Al.com.

 

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