Super Lawyer Donald Watkins Thinks So –
The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson –
I’ve been following with some interest the stories about the arrest of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, sharing some of the links on Facebook and Twitter. But it seemed like a stretch to me that his arrest on misdemeanor battery charges for hitting his wife in an Atlanta hotel were in any way connected to the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, who Fuller sentenced to prison in 2007.
While Siegelman’s staunch supporters are using the story to gear up a rehearing of his case in e-mail messages and Facebook posts, I figured it would have no impact on either Siegelman’s case or Fuller’s. The charge is only a misdemeanor, after all, hardly an impeachable offense, and even the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the newspaper that broke the story on Fuller’s arrest, published a story indicating the domestic violence arrest was unlikely to result in his removal from the federal bench.
He has a lifetime appointment thanks to former President George W. Bush. It would take a trial in the U.S. Senate to impeach him and remove him from office.
But there is another option. Perhaps if enough public pressure could be brought to bear, there is a chance Fuller could be shamed into resigning. That would still not get Don Siegelman out of prison, however.
But at least it would rid the court system of one of the bad judges appointed by Bush who abused their power to turn the judicial branch into a corrupt arm of the executive branch. There is still no doubt that the prosecution of Siegelman and Scrushy in the Montgomery case was political from the start. I am one of the principal journalists who helped change the national story frame in those days and convince a majority of the American people that justice in this country had been “politicized” in a way that was never intended by the Founding Fathers.
If you were not paying attention in those days, you can still read the archive of stories online for free.
Now in a new development that might in fact influence the case, the super lawyer who orchestrated HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy’s acquittal in the first trial against him in Birmingham has taken to the Facebook airwaves, so to speak, to make the case against Fuller. And if there is anything I learned about Donald Watkins over the years, it is that he is a reliable source a journalist should listen to if they want to know what’s going to happen in advance.
When I moved back to Birmingham from Washington, D.C. in 2005 and got the call from New York to help cover the HealthSouth-Scrushy trial for the New York Times, I started hanging out at Lou’s Pub on Birmingham’s Southside in the Lakeview district after the courthouse closed for the day along with a lot of other journalists, lawyers and interested parties following the trial. Watkins was there almost every night, and invariably he was open to questions from reporters — unlike some attorneys who always refuse to comment on an ongoing case.
Over time, I found Watkins to be a very reliable source. Pretty much everything he said was going to happen went down pretty much like he said it would. In the end, he said Scrushy would be found not guilty in that trial. Of course that turned out to be accurate.
The people of Birmingham came to hate Scrushy for cashing in his stock options and then the crash of the HealthSouth stock price. A lot of people lost money and even retirement funds. The management at the Birmingham News came to hate Scrushy for what he did. They lost money on the stock too after years of profiting from HealthSouth advertising. Even the New York Times editorial staff wanted Scrushy to be found guilty and go to prison for life and have all his money taken away in a civil trial. I was the only truly objective person in that courthouse.
Now I don’t know if Watkins still hangs out at Lou’s Pub anymore. But now he has taken to Facebook to weigh in on the case of Mark Fuller. After sharing the first news links about Fuller’s arrest and stories about how his caseload had been reassigned due to his arrest, Watkins started writing about the case in open letters.
In the first one, under the title “Mark Fuller Is A Dangerous Man,” Watkins wrote:
Mark Everett Fuller is a wealthy federal judge in Montgomery, Alabama, whom George W. Bush appointed to the federal bench in 2002. Fuller, who is a former district attorney, was the epitome of Republican “family values” when Bush selected him for the judgeship. Fuller served as chief judge of the federal court in Montgomery until 2011.
Fuller achieved celebrity status in Alabama judicial circles for presiding over the controversial trial of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy, the former CEO of HealthSouth. Both men were convicted in Fuller’s court and he sent them to prison immediately upon their convictions.
That is enough background information on Fuller. What is more important, is that Fuller is a dangerous man with a reputation for violence against women and marital infidelity.
Last Saturday, Fuller was arrested by Atlanta police on a charge of misdemeanor battery for an incident of domestic violence involving his wife Kelli Fuller. The incident took place after Kelli allegedly accused Fuller of having an affair with his law clerk. Fuller was jailed following his arrest and released on bond Monday.
Tonight, we have learned that the alleged beating Fuller administered to Kelli was vicious and bloody. There was blood all over the bathroom in Fuller’s Ritz Carlton hotel room. Kelli required medical attention at the scene. She was not taken to a local Atlanta hospital because her children, who had accompanied Fuller and his wife to Atlanta, took Kelli back to Montgomery later that night.
When the children first saw their mom after the alleged beating, she was in bad shape. Kelli was covered in blood, and Fuller was handcuffed and sitting on the bed. The hotel room reeked of alcohol. In a fit of rage, one of the children reportedly tried to physically confront Fuller about the incident, but was restrained by police.
Kelli Fuller told police that her husband became violent after she accused him of having an affair with a law clerk in his Montgomery office. She said he pulled her hair, threw her to the ground, dragged her, kicked her and struck her several times in the face. Fuller told police that his wife became violent as she confronted him with allegations of cheating. He told police he was watching television when his wife threw a drink glass at him and that he grabbed her hair and threw her to the ground to defend himself.
Fuller suffered no visible injuries during the incident.
Mark Fuller’s stepson, Hunter Gregg, reportedly told police at the scene that this was not the first time an incident like this had occurred between Fuller and his wife.
After the paramedics treated her bodily injuries and stabilized her traumatic condition, Kelli and her two children packed their belongings, left the hotel, and headed to Montgomery. Reportedly, they went to Kelli’s ex-husband’s house for safekeeping.
This is not the first time Fuller has been accused of spousal battery. When Fuller divorced his first wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, in 2012, he requested that the court file be sealed for security reasons, as it allegedly contained “accusations of domestic violence, drug abuse and an alleged affair with his court bailiff.”
Kelli Fuller is Judge Fuller’s second wife and works in the Montgomery federal courthouse. Fuller’s law clerk works in his office. Neither woman could be reached for a comment.
Alabama is run by a very small oligarchy of rich white men. Fuller is part of this tight-knit oligarchy. They enjoy a kleptocratic grip on power in the state. This group determines who will be governor, U.S. Attorneys, legislators, Congressmen/women, and judges in the federal and state court system.
Fuller’s high-profile scandal is a disgrace to all involved. It is also testing the oligarchy’s ability to contain the embarrassing fallout from his wife-beating incident. The talk around the courthouse tonight is that Fuller must resign because this scandal will be played out in a City of Atlanta criminal court and in the court of public opinion.
Next, Watkins wrote an open letter to the judges on the Municipal Court of Atlanta:
On August 22, 2014, defendant Mark Everett Fuller will appear before your Court on a charge of domestic battery. Fuller is a wealthy federal judge in Montgomery, Alabama. President George W. Bush appointed him to the federal bench in 2002. Fuller, who is a former district attorney, served as chief judge of the federal court in Montgomery until 2011.
Fuller has earned a reputation as a hardcore “law and order” judge for the harsh sentences he imposes in criminal cases. He is a firm believer in handing down maximum sentences in criminal cases.
We are asking that you give Fuller something he never affords criminal defendants in his courtroom – a fair trial. We are also asking that you put aside all media reports that Fuller is a dangerous man with a reputation for violence against women and marital infidelity. He must be judged on the evidence before you.
Expect his friends in the judiciary to attempt to influence the outcome of his case. His friends have never had a problem with making private contact with judges about cases they are hearing. Please don’t let this ex part contact happen here. If one of his judicial buddies calls you, shut him/her down and report them to the proper authorities.
The evidence in this case will be graphic. The victim of Fuller’s alleged violence was his wife. She was drenched in blood when police arrived on the scene. Blood was everywhere in the bathroom of the hotel. Fuller did not call the police; his wife did.
“He’s beating on me. Please help me.” These were the frantic words of Kelli Fuller on the 911 call to Atlanta police last weekend. The voice on the tape is obviously horrified and distraught.
The incident took place after Kelli Fuller allegedly accused Fuller of having an affair with his law clerk. According to published news reports, Kelli (formerly known as Kelli Gregg) knows Fuller well. She was his former Courtroom Deputy Clerk and bailiff and now works in the Clerk’s office. It was an open secret in the Montgomery federal courthouse that Kelli had been in an ongoing affair with Fuller, who was married at the time to his first wife, for four or five years. Regardless, Kelli was the alleged victim of spousal battery last weekend.
Kelli told police that her husband became violent after she accused him of having an affair with a law clerk in his Montgomery office. She said he pulled her hair, threw her to the ground, dragged her, kicked her and struck her several times in the face. Fuller told police that his wife became violent as she confronted him with allegations of cheating. He told police he was watching television when his wife threw a drink glass at him and that he grabbed her hair and threw her to the ground to defend himself.
Fuller suffered no visible injuries during the incident. He was sitting on the bed reeking of alcohol when police officers arrived on the scene.
Mark Fuller’s stepson, Hunter Gregg, reportedly told police at the scene that this was not the first time an incident like this had occurred between Fuller and Kelli.
This is not the first time Fuller has been accused of spousal battery and adultery. In 2012, when Fuller divorced his first wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, he requested that the court file be sealed for security reasons, as it allegedly contained “accusations of domestic violence, drug abuse and an alleged affair with [present wife Kelli Gregg].” This prior conduct suggests that Fuller may be a serial wife beater.
In closing, I ask that the trial judge assigned to the City of Atlanta v. Mark Fuller case please judge this case on its merits. Defendant Fuller is used to receiving special treatment in Alabama. He is part of the oligarchy of white men who run the State of Alabama. Fuller has absolutely no respect for women (or people of color). Regardless, he deserves a fair and impartial trial.
If Fuller is found guilty, we request that the Court sentence him to the maximum one-year jail time allowed under Georgia law for a misdemeanor. As I mentioned earlier, Judge Fuller believes in handing down maximum criminal sentences. I am sure he would want nothing less in his own case.
On Thursday, Watkins wrote a column under the title: “The Power Of Money: Alabama’s Oligarchy.”
The call came tonight. I knew it would come sometime after I started posting my series of articles exposing Judge Mark Fuller’s reported spousal abuse and infidelity. I initially thought it was a call to congratulate me for taking such a strong stand against wife-beating and philandering. I was wrong.
A good friend of mine broke it down for me; he referred to it as the “process” and told me I needed to let it “play out”. I thought he was referring to the legal process. He was not. Instead, my friend was explaining how things work in Alabama for members of Alabama’s oligarchy like Fuller. In Alabama, money is power.
I will now share publicly the “process” that was described to me in this private conversation.
Fuller is well connected to the political and financial leaders who have made Alabama a one-party state. In case you did not know, Alabama is a state dominated by the Republican Party. This oligarchy included Governor Robert Bentley, both of Alabama’s U.S. Senators, all but one member of the state’s Congressional delegation, most of the state’s legislators, most of Alabama’s federal and state judges, and the Alabama Business Council, among others.
According to my friend, Fuller has embarrassed them, not because he beat his wife and cheated on her, but because this incident is now public. They are going to clean Fuller up, buff him out, and place him back in active service on the bench. In Alabama, money is power.
The oligarchy has known about Fuller’s propensity to beat his wives and infidelity for years, but it did not matter as long as he was protecting their interest on the federal bench. He made them extremely proud during the seven years that he served as chief judge. None of Fuller’s comrades in the oligarchy have spoken out about his recent arrest for spousal abuse. In Alabama, money is power.
Fuller’s longtime first wife, Lisa Fuller, filed for divorce in 2012 with allegations that he was abusing alcohol and drugs, beating her, and also conducting an affair with an unidentified married woman. The husband of Fuller’s court clerk also filed for divorce from his wife while alleging adultery in court papers. It was an “open” secret around the federal courthouse that Fuller was having an affair with his courtroom clerk/bailiff, Kelli Gregg.
Fuller later married Kelli Gregg and was able to keep his divorce papers secret despite Alabama’s law requiring open records. In Alabama, money is power.
The oligarchy quickly neutered U.S. Attorney George Beck while Fuller’s divorce case was proceeding through the state court system. There would be no criminal investigation to determine whether Fuller was using public funds and courthouse jobs to support his romantic affairs. Remember, money is power in Alabama.
After Fuller’s arrest in Atlanta, the oligarchy made it clear to mainstream media outlets in Alabama that there would be no media-feeding frenzy over Fuller’s wife-beating story. They were instructed to ignore the story, to the extent possible. This is why the stories reported by Alabama media outlets have originated from out-of-state media organizations and my Facebook posts.
Reportedly, the oligarchy is arranging for Fuller to enter into an anger management program, an alcohol and drug abuse program, and a facility for the treatment of Fuller’s alleged sexual addiction. They will try to buy his wife’s silence with a nice financial settlement in divorce proceedings that is well above the amount specified in his pre-nuptial agreement. They are working feverishly to get Fuller’s criminal case dismissed. In Alabama, money is power.
When it is all said and done, a new and spit-shined version of Mark Fuller will be rolled out to the public. He will apologize for his bad behavior, pronounce himself as cured of his demons, wrap himself in God and the flag, and march back into his courtroom to dispense justice out to regular Alabamians.
I was amazed by my friend’s description of the “process”. When I asked about the legal ethics of all of this “process”, my friend laughed and told me that I was out of touch with reality. In Alabama, money is power.
I asked my friend what I should do as a Facebook journalist while this “process” was “playing out”. He referred me to Colossians 3:22 and read the passage for me. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord”, says this Bible passage. The clear implication of this reading was that I am supposed to obey the oligarchy and stop reporting on Fuller’s wife-beating and infidelity. Like the rest of the “slaves” in Alabama, I am to serve the oligarchy with sincerity of heart.
This I will never do. The oligarchy does not have enough money or power to silence this voice.
On Friday, he sent an open question to Alabama’s Republican Governor Robert Bentley.
I have received an avalanche of inquires from women in Alabama who want to know exactly where you stand on the issue of spousal abuse and domestic violence. They have noticed your deafening silence on the vicious beating Judge Mark Fuller administered to his wife Kelli Fuller last weekend in Atlanta. Kelli’s children saw their mother’s horrific physical condition in the aftermath of Mark Fuller’s repeated blows to Kelli’s head, his action in slamming her down on the hard bathroom floor, and his kicks to her bloody body.
Governor, these women know you are running for re-election in November. They have heard you say on many occasions that you are “tough” on crime. Furthermore, you are the top elected official in the state of Alabama. Many of these women look up to you.
Governor, these women want to know whether you are standing with Kelli Fuller, the victim of this vicious beating, or whether you are standing with your good friend Mark Fuller, the admitted wife-beater. Kelli’s 17-year old son and his younger brother also need to know where you stand on this question. They are the ones who had to bring their severely injured mother back home to Montgomery in the middle of the night.
Our mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, granddaughters, daughter-in-laws, and all of the women whom we love truly deserve a genuine and direct answer to this question, Governor. They do not want some political soundbite, media spin, or generic campaign rhetoric this time. They want you to answer the question with a sincere heart.
Governor, will you take some time out of your busy schedule next week to answer this simple question for all of the women of Alabama who care about this important issue? Please give them your answer before defendant Mark Fuller marches into the Atlanta Municipal Court on August 22, 2014, for his first court appearance.
Governor, as a lawyer and Facebook journalist, I think their question is a fair one, and it deserves a straight-forward answer. Which one of the Fullers are you standing with, Governor? Mark, or Kelli?
Donald V. Watkins
Now I don’t know if what Watkins says on Facebook will make much of difference all by itself, but what if journalists take to quoting what Watkins says on Facebook and get those stories out to a larger audience on the Web Press where the masses can at least potentially see them and share them with their friends and family?
© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.