Schmitz’s arrest raises troubling allegations
Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
The Democratic-controlled Alabama Legislature assembles in Montgomery Tuesday with many in the majority party feeling as though they are facing down both barrels of a double-barreled shotgun in addition to the problems they face with finding enough funding for education and all other facets of state government.
In one barrel they saw the face of Gov. Bob Riley, who has set out to raise $7 million to oust as many Democrats as he can in the 2010 election. Out of the other barrel starred Alice Martin, the U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, who many Democrats believe is working in harmony with Riley to indict as many Democratic lawmakers as possible in the next two years so that Riley can achieve his goal of a Republican majority in both houses of the Legislature.
Last week Martin announced that charges had been filed against Rep. Sue Schmitz, 63, D-Toney on nine counts for what Martin described as “performing virtually no services and generating virtually no work product” in a federally funded youth training program. The prosecutors also threw in mail fraud charges for which the maximum sentence for conviction is 20 years and a $250,000 fine. The maximum sentence for the other alleged crime is 10 years and a $250,000 fine. Martin had secured the indictment of Schmitz on Jan. 9, but waited until last Thursday to arrest Schmitz.
Here’s how the arrest in the small Huntsville suburb of Toney went down as described in one editorial account: “The morning calm in the small town of Toney, located near Huntsville, was broken at 6:15 a.m. yesterday morning. A team of five FBI agents, accompanied by a prison matron, pounded on the door. When the man of the house answered, he was forced into the yard, shirtless in the early morning cold. The team had come for his wife, Sue Schmitz. She was dragged out of her bathroom, where she was taking a shower, handcuffed, breaking her flesh and scraping her wrists, and hustled off to prison.”
If one is a Democratic member of the Legislature or has been involved with the community colleges, this little read will likely scare one’s pants or skirt, whichever is applicable, off them. There have also been other more colorful phrases uttered to describe such a fear.
Suspecting that something like this might happen to Rep. Schmitz, her lawyer, Buck Watson of Huntsville, had informed the U. S. attorney’s office that if they wanted Rep. Schmitz she would voluntarily surrender herself. But that obviously wasn’t dramatic enough for Martin, who has significant ethical and legal problems of her own, which have never been reported by the major media outlets in the state.
The Office of Professional Responsibility for the Department of Justice is investigating whether Martin committed perjury in a deposition related to an EEOC complaint against Martin’s office. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ultimately ordered Martin to rehire a fired assistant prosecutor and her supervisor, concluding that Martin fired the two as retaliation for filing the complaint. The judge handling the case found Martin’s explanation of the matter “simply unworthy of credence.”
The fired assistant prosecutor, Deirdra Brown Fleming, raised the allegations of perjury in Martin’s 2003 deposition. The DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) declined to investigate the perjury allegation at that time because the EEOC matter was ongoing.
After the EEOC matter was decided against Martin’s office, the Office of Professional Responsibility re-visited the matter and decided to initiate an inquiry into the perjury allegations against Martin.
The Office of Professional Responsibility won't comment on the progress of the investigation, but I am told off the record that the investigation is being very consciously slow-walked. In any event, according to my sources, the underlying facts are clear enough — Martin gave false evidence in the proceedings, and the trial officer concluded her statements were not credible.
The question many who are concerned about the fairness of the federal judicial process in Alabama are asking is how can someone stay on as a U.S. attorney when they've been caught in a serious misrepresentation, under oath, in a legal proceeding?
I concur in that question being asked, and asked repeatedly.
Bob Martin, editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent, has taken over The Alabama Scene from longtime political columnist and Cherokee County native Bob Ingram, who died recently.