An Alabama legal reform advocate last week claimed that a nude photo published in 1997 by a popular gay pornography site depicted a future federal judge famed for his conservative views.
In a dispute that raises broader issues in the justice system, Roger Shuler, founder of the website Legal Schnauzer, alleges that a photo on BadPuppy.com in 1997 depicted future U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William H. Pryor, Jr., right. The photo portrayed a young man stark naked and in a state of sexual arousal.
The judge, who has sharply criticized gays in the past, denied that he was the man in the photo and attacked Shuler for publishing a story.
Shuler stands by the identification, and seeks to review Pryor’s records to learn if he disclosed his past during his Senate confirmation a decade ago.
A long-running battle over Pryor’s appointment to a lifetime seat was one of the most controversial nominations of the two-term presidency of George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009. Democrats initially blocked Pryor’s appointment in 2003 after complaints by African-Americans. Bush then made a temporary recess appointment to avoid continued Senate filibuster. The Senate later confirmed Pryor, a Republican, by an unusually close 53-45 vote in 2005.
Those controversies occurred before Pryor’s role became notorious with exposés beginning in 2007 alleging the frame-up of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, Alabama’s leading Democrat.
As state attorney general on a hard-right platform, Pryor began investigating Siegelman promptly after the governor took office in 1999. That probe morphed into a joint state-federal investigation after the Bush administration took office in 2001.
In a second trial in 2006, a jury convicted Siegelman on corruption charges largely stemming from his 1999 request to Richard Scrushy to contribute to the non-profit Alabama Education Foundation, which advocated a state lottery. Siegelman reappointed Scrushy to a state board on which Scrushy had served under three previous Republican governors.
But no evidence surfaced of a direct quid pro quo, as the law requires, except from the vague statements of a former Siegelman aide facing up to 10 years in prison on another matter. Prosecutors viciously intimidated the slender-built, effeminate-acting aide, Nick Bailey, in up to 70 coaching sessions with threats of a long sentence (with the implication the defendant would be raped by fellow inmates throughout the term) unless he provided precisely the kinds of statements sought by prosecutors.
Siegelman is shown at left in a 2008 CBS 60 Minutes report on irregularities in the prosecution.
Scrushy, a wealthy Republican who had founded HealthSouth, Inc., was imprisoned on a seven-year term. Following his release, he told me that he and Siegelman were framed for political reasons.
In these ways, the Siegelman case is intimately involved with the controversy over the BadPuppy photo — as well as the transformation of Alabama politics from a two-party system with Democratic dominance as recently as the 1990s to essentially one-party GOP governance currently.