Friday, December 30, 2011

My tribute to Siobhan Reynolds

The attractive, diminutive woman who drove into my driveway on the last Saturday in October hardly looked to be the person that federal authorities desperately were trying to find a way to throw into prison. Her lovely eyes had a sparkle in them, and she hardly looked to be a threat to the life and liberty of anyone.

Yet, here was a woman coming into my home who was being targeted by the feds because she had the audacity to openly question the Drug War in general and the government’s war on people taking pain medications and the doctors that prescribe them. There is one thing that federal prosecutors and judges hate, and that is anyone who openly says that they are doing something that is immoral is a threat that cannot be ignored.

Our visit was short, unfortunately, because of family business, and I would have loved for this visit to have gone on for hours. But, it ultimately ended, and she and her son got back into the car and drove to her home in Ohio. I never would see her again, as she died Christmas Eve in a small plane crash near Circleville, Ohio.

Even now, it is hard to believe she is gone, and for the many people she helped and befriended, their loss is incalculable. Siobhan Reynolds was a vital person in the lives of many because she was one of the few people in this country who was willing to stand up and openly support drug-based relief for the millions of people in the United States who suffer from debilitating pain.

Federal officials, and especially those whose careers are tied directly to the Drug War and to the prosecutions of doctors that write prescriptions for pain medications, would disagree with my assertions that Reynolds was a hero, and I am sure that more than a few of them are happy that she no longer lives. (And, no, I don’t believe that the feds were responsible for the crash, as it seems to have been an error by the pilot, who crashed short of the airport runway.)

Even though Reynolds had committed no crime (except for having the effrontery of publicly questioning the validity of a federal prosecutor’s case), she was the victim of an ongoing federal grand jury probe into her life and into a pain patient advocacy group, the Pain Relief Network, that she once ran and the feds forced into bankruptcy through vindictive fines. The worst thing about the government’s faux “investigation,” however, was that it was done under the color of “government secrecy” in which legal experts agreed that federal prosecutor Tanya Treadway utterly abused the grand jury process.

How she got to that point in her life where the government was trying to destroy her is an important story in itself, and one that I shall tell here. In the beginning, Siobhan Reynolds was not an activist and certainly not an activist who bravely would challenge federal prosecutors who are used to having no accountability at all, least of all from lowly citizens who might deem themselves “worthy” to question the veracity and tactics of those who abuse the law.

Reynolds had a husband, Sean, who had a serious health problem, a congenital connective tissue disorder that left him with debilitating pain in his joints. Like so many others in the USA who suffer from severe chronic pain, he was unable to receive adequate medical relief because the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, not doctors, determine what is a “legitimate medical purpose” for prescribing of opioids for pain. However, Siobhan’s husband finally found a physician, Dr. William Hurwitz, a doctor in Northern Virginia, who was willing to write prescriptions for higher doses of pain-killers.

The higher doses worked, and for the first time in years, Siobhan’s husband was able to function at a much more normal level, but such satisfactory results were anathema to the nation’s drug warriors, and especially to U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty, the Religious Right federal prosecutor who might have publicly proclaimed his Christian beliefs, but did not carry them to his line of work.

I have detailed McNulty’s escapades in this earlier article, including what he did to Dr. Hurwitz, but the smarminess of what McNulty did bears repeating. First, in violation of the Rules of Conduct both of the Federal Bar and the Virginia Bar, McNulty made a number of inflammatory pre-trial statements about Dr. Hurwitz, likening him to a drug “kingpin,” and calling his office a “pill mill.” The Beltway media, of course, lapped up McNulty’s missives, thus ensuring that it would be almost impossible for Dr. Hurwitz to receive a fair trial. Radley Balko writes:
The judge acknowledged that Hurwitz ran a legitimate practice and had likely saved and improved the lives of countless people. His crime was not recognizing that some of his patients were addicts and dealers.
McNulty got his cherished conviction in federal court, but not before appealing to the DEA to withdraw the agency’s new policies on how doctors should determine doses for pain-killers. (The Hurwitz defense was going to use the new DEA policies to demonstrate he was operating within government guidelines, something the “win-at-all-costs” McNulty could not stand.)

(McNulty ultimately used this and other such cases to rocket his career to the number two position in the U.S. Department of Justice. He held that position until he was forced to resign after making “false statements” to Congress about the firing of a number of U.S. attorneys. Enjoying that legal double standard reserved for federal officials, McNulty did not have to endure any legal consequences for not telling the truth while under oath. Instead, he went to an international law firm and now is a very wealthy man.)

Dr. Hurwitz, his life and medical practice shattered, his family destroyed, and his future in prison, was not the only victim of McNulty’s viciousness. (While in prison, Dr. Hurwitz developed an eye disorder, and because of the lack of decent medical care provided for federal inmates, he became blind in one eye.) Patients suffering from chronic pain – people who at best McNulty considered to be “collateral damage” – found themselves in a desperate situation. The Hurwitz prosecution not only kept him from writing prescriptions, but other doctors did not want to experience the same fate and refused to adequately treat certain patients for pain.

One of the side effects of chronic pain is high blood pressure, and ultimately Siobhan’s husband succumbed to the pain and other effects and died. (When I introduced my wife to Siobhan, I said that Paul McNulty killed her husband – and I meant every word.) Reynolds did not go quietly, however, and started her organization, PRN, to help educate doctors about pain medications and also to serve as a resource for attorneys representing doctors being prosecuted for writing pain prescriptions that the government claimed “served no medical purpose.”

When someone challenges America’s prosecutorial police state, the authorities take notice, and Reynolds soon was in the feds’ sights. Keep in mind that Reynolds was trying to stay within the bounds of acceptable medical care and to be an advocate for people suffering chronic pain, but the feds were not interested in what might be true. Instead, they only were (and are) interested in throwing as many people into prison and destroying as many lives as possible, all while posing as the “good guys.”

In a recent article, Lew Rockwell accurately depicted what is going on with federal criminal law in which government agents can target whom they please and simply make the person disappear, all under “color of law.” He writes:
Today, every single citizen, no matter how free he or she may feel in daily life, is in reality a sitting duck. You can be made to disappear. There is essentially no way you can escape once the feds sweep you into their net. There is no justice. The total states of the past used to pretend to have trial-based convictions. The total state of the present doesn’t even bother. It just puts a sack over your head and takes you away.
Indeed, that is what happened to William Hurwitz and a large number of other doctors who committed the “crime” of believing their patients when they said they were in pain. There were no kickbacks for them, no under-the-table payments, no relations with drug dealers. And none of that matters.

McNulty and other federal prosecutors, with the help of federal judges who constantly have ruled in favor of the feds ever since the Progressive Era, have effectively destroyed the historical Anglo-American legal doctrine of mens rea, which is defined as: an element of criminal responsibility, a guilty mind; a guilty or wrongful purpose; a criminal intent. Guilty knowledge and wilfulness. One can understand why a “win-at-all-costs” prosecutor would want mens rea eviscerated, as the elimination of this doctrine would mean that more individuals could be caught in the snare of a prosecutorial witch hunt.

(One of the ironies here is that although McNulty made sure that the mens rea standard did not apply to people he prosecuted, he was given a free pass after giving Congress false statements because he claimed he had been “out of the loop” and did not realize that some of his comments were false. In other words, “Mens rea for me, but not for thee.”)

To make matters worse, federal prosecutors have agitated for years for Congress and the courts to ensure that many laws are as vague as possible, so that a person would not have clear boundaries within which to act. For example, insider trading law has been written in an intentionally-confusing manner in which there is no “statutory definition” of insider trading. This is a plus for prosecutors because they can target people who never can be sure if they are breaking the law or not.

This means that federal juries are left in the unenviable position of having to determine whether or not the law was broken in the first place, something jurors simply are no equipped to do. In the situation of writing pain-medication prescriptions that, according to the government, “have no medical purpose,” there is no law or no outright policy that is clear, which leaves doctors always wondering if they are next to be prosecuted, and places prosecutors in the driver’s seat.

Federal prosecutors are free to demonize doctors publicly, call them “drug dealers” or operators of “pill mills,” and their statements NEVER are scrutinized in the mainstream media. The doctor is guilty even before the trial begins, and even if a physician is acquitted, federal agencies effectively can ruin the person’s reputation and career. Furthermore, as the federal Reign of Terror expands, doctors protect themselves by writing as few pain prescriptions as they can in hopes of avoiding the federal “Eye of Sauron.”

That thousands of people are unable to gain relief is of no consequence to federal officials, who are interested only in convicting as many people as possible, which then is a boost to careerist prosecutors and government agents. These are people who literally advance their own pay, benefits, and power upon the backs of doctors and their patients, and in the case of Siobhan’s husband, the results were fatal.

(Not that Paul McNulty or any of his other prosecutorial minions cared what happened to Sean Reynolds or his widow and their child. These are people who enjoy inflicting trauma upon others and who love to exercise their absolute powers, knowing that no matter how dishonest or outrageous their conduct might be, they never have to fear being punished for their own lawbreaking, as the Congress and the federal courts have granted them “total immunity.”)

Reynolds was a godsend not only to patients and their families, but also to doctors and their loved ones who were watching the Paul McNultys of the world unjustly turn their lives upside down. She became involved in a number of such cases elsewhere in the country, helping some doctors to be acquitted and watching others lose at trial and go to prison.

Helping people defend themselves against federal prosecutors and vague laws is a sure way to attract the enmity of the State, and after she became involved in a case against a doctor and his wife in Kansas, the State struck back. U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway opened an “obstruction of justice” investigation against Reynolds, destroying the Pain Relief Network in the process. To make matters worse, Treadway was able to convince the courts (which don’t need much convincing when federal prosecutors wish to abuse innocent people) to make the entire process secret, including any statements from Reynolds herself.

Grand jury secrecy is supposed to protect people being investigated, but in this situation, Treadway was able to use secrecy to protect herself and to destroy Reynolds, and the courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that secrecy was fine with them, which a former federal prosecutor says is an utter abuse of the grand jury. The tactics worked, and not only was Siobhan forced to shut down the Pain Relief Network, but she also was facing the possibility of contrived criminal charges up until the moment of her death.

There are many things that we can learn from the life and death of Siobhan Reynolds. Surely one of the worst things is that in the United States of America, federal prosecutors nearly are invincible, not because of any good that they do, but rather because they have become a law unto themselves. We also have learned that the State bows to no one, and that right and wrong are not standards at all because the State always is right, even when it is wrong.

Yet, we also can know that in our midst, there are people who are willing to stand up and be counted, and Siobhan Reynolds was one of them. She was a great person and her legacy goes on even though she no longer walks among us. Hers is a legacy of integrity and courage and that is the best lesson of all.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sad news: Siobhan Reynolds has been killed in a plane crash

One of my favorite people, Siobhan Reynolds, who was a voice of sanity in the insanity of the Drug War and especially the government's war on doctors and pain medications, has died in a plane crash. The account is here, and Radley Balko's tribute to her is here.

Siobhan and her son came by our place in Finzel two months ago for a brief visit. She was a most lovely woman and someone I admired greatly. This is a real blow, and I shall miss her very much.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Martez Mitchell conviction shows what is wrong with federal criminal law

Former Tyner High School football star Martez Mitchell recently was convicted in federal court in Chattanooga for, according to The Chattanoogan, "drug trafficking and using a gun in connection with drug trafficking." He faces five years for each charge, and the sentences, according to federal law, must run consecutively.

While I doubt that most people will give this a second look, I read the article all the way through because I was curious about the second charge. Did he actually point a gun at someone during a drug trade? Was he uttering threats while waving a gun?

It turns out that the gun was in the house where he lived, and police and federal agents never demonstrated in court that he used the gun to facilitate the selling of marijuana. In other words, "using a gun in connection with drug trafficking," is one of those legal technicalities that the feds use when they want to pile up years in prison on someone.

I will put it another way: the law lies. It is one thing if a person uses a gun to threaten someone else with death in order to make that person hand over money or property or to do something else; it is quite another when the presence of a gun in another room is used as "proof" of "using a gun."

Unfortunately, federal law is full of such technicalities that empower federal prosecutors but undermine the Rule of Law. For example, if Joe were to sell a small amount of marijuana to an undercover officer, and Joe also had an unloaded gun locked in the trunk of his car nearby, the same "using a gun" charge also would be applied to him.

That is correct. Under federal law, one does not have to use a gun to be charged with using a gun. Just another example of how the government turns the law into a lie.

I also would like to say that the jurors should be ashamed of themselves for going along with such a bogus charge in the first place. I'm sure that Judge Curtis Collier explained how the law worked, but jurors did not have to listen to him, and they certainly did not have to listen to prosecutors.

As I see it, a "judge" who goes along with this kind of charade is not a judge at all, but rather is nothing more than a shill for bad federal rules. I don't know much about Collier, but this case does not give me any confidence in his dedication to justice.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New evidence for murder? Why do I have my doubts?

It seems as though the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit is gearing up for yet another trial in which prosecutors try to "prove" what they cannot prove honestly. They did it with Tonya Craft in 2010, they want to do it with James Combs, and now Dale Higgenbottom is in the dock.

The December 11 story in the Times-Free Press lays out the actual case in which Catoosa County authorities now are claiming that Higgenbottom murdered an infant named Christopher Breazeale in 1992. While I cannot claim to know if the charges are true, nonetheless the fact that Buzz Franklin's office is bringing them without revealing any new evidence is beyond troubling.

The first question I have, however, is this: Why does Vickie Scoggins have any say in this at all? This is the same Vickie Scoggins who swore up and down that the charges against Tonya Craft absolutely were true, the same Vickie Scoggins who worked closely with prosecutors Chris Arnt and Len Gregor and helped them to suborn perjury and went along with their lies.

Given the reprehensible and utterly dishonest conduct of Franklin's office all during the Craft case -- from before and during the trial -- one should question ANYTHING that these people do. Arnt could not even keep himself from lying to jurors in closing arguments, telling the Craft jury that Dr. Nancy Fajman had diagnosed injuries to one of the girls that had been caused by sexual abuse.

That Dr. Fajman had said exactly the opposite -- something that Arnt knew -- should tell us what we need to know about Buzz Franklin and people who work for him. Arnt and Gregor should have been disbarred for what they did during that trial and criminal charges filed against both of them. However, given that the "justice" system in the State of Georgia is run by, well, criminals, I guess that the Criminals In Charge decided to let criminal activity of their own get a free pass out of professional courtesy.

Now, neither Arnt nor Gregor will be prosecuting the Higgenbottom case. No, that has fallen to Alan Norton, who also is prosecuting the bogus case against James Combs. Because Norton works for Franklin and because he was the prosecutor against Eric Echols in which Norton was prepared to lie to jurors about what actually had occurred when Mr. Echols delivered some court papers to Sandra "Mommie Dearest" Lamb, I am not prepared to give him any benefit of the doubt. Which leads to my second question: Just what is this "new evidence" that Norton claims to have?

Let us keep some things in perspective here. First, "new evidence" with Franklin's people generally consists of those things the ancients once called lies. Remember the "new evidence" that Joal and Sarah Henke brought to the Craft trial? Yeah, both of them "just remembered" stuff that was 180 degrees from testimony they had given under oath a year before.

Gregor and Arnt were quick to use this "I just remembered" and "judge" brian outhouse was quick to give it his stamp of approval, even though all of them knew that the Henkes were lying. Observers in the courtroom were able to witness Arnt, Gregor, and outhouse commit a number of felonies by their bringing in the Henkes and their transparently dishonest testimony. Yes, suborning perjury in Georgia is a crime, although the authorities don't pursue it because if they did, there would be no prosecutors left to bring cases to trial in Georgia. Furthermore, because Gregor, Arnt, and outhouse had a number of illegal secret meetings before and during the trial to plan strategy, they participated in criminal conspiracy.

From what I can tell, Norton is going to have to fabricate something in the Higgenbottom case or suborn perjury. However, given that he works with Arnt and Gregor, I am sure that they have given him plenty of pointers on how to lie and break the law -- and not indict himself. According to the article in the TFP:
Alan Norton, a prosecutor from the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, said prosecutors are going to have to build their case by explaining what new evidence justifies bringing charges 19 years after the fact.

But he wouldn't say what new evidence they have.

Court documents filed by Higgenbottom's attorney say the state didn't preserve vital evidence -- X-ray photographs, original autopsy photographs and physical specimens -- and that the case is too cold to prosecute.

They also want to know why, if a caseworker had such strong suspicions about Christopher's death, the state waited 192 months to do anything about it.
Indeed, I also am suspicious. First, there are no "Perry Mason moments" in criminal court, even though outhouse tried to pull off something by letting in Joal Henke's "I just remembered" testimony and also allowing an obviously-fabricated document to be entered into evidence. If the prosecution has something, by law it MUST be shared with the defense, and that includes "new evidence."

Second, we are dealing with prosecutors and judges in North Georgia that long ago decided that they could make up the law as they go along, and that they had absolute power. Grand juries in that circuit will indict anything, as I doubt that anyone serving on those bodies actually has a clue about the law.

I have no idea what happened in the death of Christopher Breazeale -- and neither do Vickie Scoggins nor Alan Norton. That is why I have no doubt that unless there really is "new evidence" and a real-live smoking gun, Norton and his people will make it up as they go along and hope that jurors in the case are not as wise to their tactics as were the Tonya Craft jurors.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Judge DID order prosecutors to give up exculpatory evidence in the Stevens trial

In a recent post and in an article in Lewrockwell.com, I noted that the special prosecutor had recommended that prosecutors NOT be charged with criminal contempt because the trial judge supposedly did not order prosecutors to turn over exculpatory material to the defense.

However, Jim Morhard, a former Senate Appropriations Committee chief of staff, writes in the Wall Street Journal that as someone who attended the trial regularly, he observed that "Judge (Emmet) Sullivan continually direct(ed) the prosecution to reveal exculpatory evidence to the defense after they had been caught repeatedly not doing so." In other words, Sullivan DID order the prosecutors to obey the law and prosecutors openly and arrogantly refused to do so.

Special Prosecutor Henry F. Schuelke III did leave open the possibility of charging the Stevens prosecutors with "obstruction of justice," but I doubt seriously that the Department of Justice (sic) will charge its own, especially since their actions paved the way for the Democrats to have the filibuster-proof 60 members in the U.S. Senate, which was crucial for President Barack Obama to push through much of his legislative agenda during a two-year window, including "Obamacare." With prosecutors doing important dirty work for the Democratic Party, I don't think that they will be punished for doing what prosecutors everywhere do.

Furthermore, if prosecutors in the Stevens case are charged with any crimes, one can bet that their defense will be based upon the "everybody does it" line, and a lot of outright criminal dirty laundry will be aired in the courtroom, and if there is anything government bureaucrats don't like, it is having their evil and illegal deeds exposed. No, I am sure that the DOJ will announce that while the prosecutors behaved badly and that they have been "punished" internally, the government believes that pursuing criminal charges will be "counterproductive" and that the individuals "have been punished enough" by having their reputations tarnished.

To put it another way, the government is going to argue that while its crack prosecution team broke the law like other "criminals" in this country, prosecutors are of a very sensitive and honest lot and simply shaming them is all that is needed. However, for those people who are not employed by the DO(In)J, you don't have the privilege of breaking the law and staying out of trouble. In fact, you don't even have to break the law in order to go to prison, as federal prosecutors are masters at taking legal actions and turning them in to "crimes."