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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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Michael Cohen is “very frustrated” by claims that Rudy Giuliani made in a Thursday press blitz about hush money payments Cohen doled out during the 2016 presidential campaign, MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch said Friday.

Deutsch, appearing on Morning Joe, said he’d spoken to Cohen about Giuliani’s revelation that President Trump reimbursed the $130,000 Cohen paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about her alleged sexual relationship with Trump.

“I spoke with Michael Cohen yesterday and his quote about Giuliani was: He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Deutsch said.

“He said look there’s two people that know exactly what happened, myself and the President and you’ll be hearing my side of the story,” Deutsch continued. “And he was obviously very frustrated with what had come out yesterday.”

Giuliani’s marathon press tour complicated the previous public stances of both Cohen and Trump’s team. According to Giuliani, Trump repaid Cohen through a $35,000 per month retainer. While Giuliani argued the funds were unrelated to the campaign and therefore not a violation of campaign finance law, he also acknowledged that it would have been damaging if news about Trump’s affair had come out weeks before Election Day.

Cohen, whose financial dealings are under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York, had initially claimed he made the payments out of his own pocket without Trump’s knowledge.

As recently as early April, Trump claimed he had no knowledge about how Daniels was paid. On Thursday, he acknowledged giving Cohen a monthly retainer to “stop the false and extortionist accusations” made by Daniels.

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Like several other Alabama sheriffs, Morgan County’s Ana Franklin has been accused of taking advantage of an archaic state law to pocket taxpayer funds set aside to feed inmates.

But the allegations against the county’s top law enforcement officer go much further.

The venture in which Franklin invested the inmate food funds happened to be a used-car lot run by an ex-felon. Franklin has failed to account for the unaudited, tax-exempt money she raised running an annual local rodeo, which earned about $20,000 each year — funds she promised went to charities and law enforcement. Most troublingly, Franklin is accused of enlisting her office to help bring charges against two people who sought to expose her.

A Morgan County Circuit judge ruled last week that Franklin and one of her deputies engaged in “criminal actions” by misleading the court in seeking a warrant to raid the office of a local blogger who has meticulously tracked Franklin’s activities.

Franklin has denied wrongdoing, writing on Facebook on Sunday that her reputation is being unfairly “defamed and torn apart.”

Amid a reported investigation by the FBI, Franklin, who took office in 2011, has announced she won’t run for re-election.

But she has no plans to step down before the end of her term.

“So far as I know, there has been no request to resign and she’s not going to resign,” one of her lawyers, William Gray, told TPM.

Used inmate food funds to invest in sketchy used-car lot

In 2015, Franklin invested $150,000 in Priceville Partners, a used-car dealership owned by an ex-felon, Greg Steenson, who spent time in jail on conspiracy and bank fraud charges.

Though her daughter and father both worked on the premises, Franklin denied knowing about Steenson’s criminal history. The following year, the dealership filed for bankruptcy and Steenson was arrested on new charges of theft and forgery involving the dealership.

During the bankruptcy proceedings, Franklin admitted that the money she invested in the lot did not come from her savings and retirement accounts, as she had originally claimed. Instead, as local blogger Glenda Lockhart documented, it came from the account earmarked to feed inmates in the prison she oversaw.

Lockhart published cashier’s checks and deposit slips on her blog, the Morgan County Whistleblower, that showed that Franklin withdrew $160,000 from the food fund account in June 2015, and that Priceville Partners deposited some $150,000 a few days later.

Franklin violated court order as inmates claimed to go hungry

As it turned out, Franklin’s use of the food funds for personal ends was forbidden. While most sheriffs in Alabama are legally permitted to keep what they deem to be excess food funds, Morgan County’s sheriff, until recently, was not. In 2009, after Franklin’s predecessor pocketed $212,000 while exclusively feeding inmates corn dogs twice a day for three months, a judge imposed a federal consent decree requiring that all of the county’s inmate food funds actually be spent on food.

After the Priceville scandal broke, Franklin said she had received poor legal advice and was unaware she could not keep excess funds. She also claimed the food served in her prison was healthy and plentiful.

That claim conflicts with findings from the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) which battled Franklin in court over her violation of the consent decree last year. Court records filed by the Center describe inmates complaining of receiving inadequate, rotten, or contaminated meals.

“Detainees have complained of finding assorted matter in their food such as rocks and, in one case, a nail,” the SCHR exhibit reads. “Similarly, detainees report that meat is inedible because it is raw, beans are inedible because they have not been cooked, and bread is inedible because it is stale or moldy. Detainees have likewise complained on multiple occasions that the jail serves them food items that are frozen, sometimes with ice still attached.”

Franklin ultimately was required to pay back the $160,000 taken from the inmate food fund. She was also found in contempt of court and hit with an additional $1,000 fine.

Sheriff’s rodeo fundraising proceeds went unaccounted for

Like other Alabama sheriffs, Franklin helped oversee a local sheriff’s rodeo to raise money for charity and local law enforcement. Notably, as The New York Times reported, rodeo money is not audited by the state.

Franklin told the Times that she raised $20,000 a year for charities and law enforcement, but offered conflicting accounts on where the money ended up. After the newspaper told Franklin they could find no organization by the name she first gave them, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Rodeo, she said the funds actually went to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse.

That non-profit happens to fall under an I.R.S. loophole for charities affiliated with government agencies, meaning it isn’t required to make its finances public, as the Times reported.

Aggressive legal action against her detractors

Franklin is accused of improperly targeting several people who have spoken out against her, most notably Lockhart, the Morgan County Whistleblower blogger.

In October 2016, Franklin paid Lockhart’s 19-year-old grandson to install surveillance software on the computer at Lockhart’s construction company to try to determine who was leaking law enforcement information to the blog. Shortly after, Franklin’s deputies obtained a search warrant and raided Lockhart’s office, seizing her computers and electronic devices.

Franklin denied allegations of retaliation, telling local press that Lockhart crossed “the line of criminal activity” in her “hateful” efforts to “tear this office down.” Lockhart promptly filed a federal suit against Franklin for violating her right to free speech, invading her privacy, and slandering her, according to court records. Lockhart has not been charged with a crime.

Caught up in the fracas was former Morgan County jail warden Leon Bradley, who was fired and, in September 2017, arrested. Franklin’s office alleged that Bradley had passed along law enforcement information to Lockhart.

In testimony for Bradley’s case, Franklin’s deputies described surreptitiously recording their conversations with Bradley and installing a GPS tracker on his car. An investigator from another Alabama sheriff’s office testified that Franklin’s office “used us” by providing inaccurate information to secure Bradley’s arrest.

Bradley’s charge was dismissed last week by circuit judge Glenn Thompson, who granted the initial search warrants. In a blistering ruling, Thompson found that Franklin and one of her deputies “deliberately misled” the court to obtain the warrants and “endeavored to hide or cover up their deception to criminal actions under the color of law.”

In a statement, the Morgan County Sheriff’s office denied any “improprieties” in the investigation.

Franklin staying put as multiple agencies probe her use of funds

The FBI is currently probing Franklin’s use of taxpayer funds, according to the the New York Times. Representatives from both the FBI and Alabama Attorney General’s office were in court listening to testimony in Bradley’s case.

But Franklin remains defiant, writing in a lengthy Sunday Facebook post thanking supporters for their “prayers” that she did nothing “criminal or unethical” and believes “the truth will be disclosed.”

Bobby Timmons, the executive director of the Alabama Sheriffs’ Association, told TPM that he personally asked Franklin to resign about three weeks ago — a claim her attorney denies.

Although Timmons said he has seen “no indication” that Franklin violated federal law, he insisted that his association holds accountable any member who “tarnishes the badge.”

“We don’t cover for ‘em at all,” said Timmons. “They know if they violate the law — taking kickbacks, getting payola from bootleggers — if they need to go to the penitentiary they’re gonna go. No sheriff is above the law.”

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Twice-indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens knowingly lied to state officials about his role in obtaining a donor list from the veterans’ charity he founded, a former campaign aide claimed in testimony released Wednesday.

The former aide, Danny Laub, also said he was tricked by Greitens’ team into taking the fall for how the donor list came into the campaign’s possession.

Laub’s testimony was given last month to investigators with the office of the Missouri Attorney General, which has been probing the issue. It was released publicly as part of a Missouri House committee report.

In April 2017, Greitens and his campaign lawyer signed a consent decree with the state ethics commission saying that it had received the Greitens’ donor list as an in-kind contribution from Laub in March 2015. The campaign agreed to pay a $100 fine.

But Laub testified that he didn’t give the campaign the list. And he said Greitens’ aides tricked him into taking the blame for acquiring the list from the Mission Continues and passing it along to the 2016 gubernatorial campaign. Laub said that when he agreed to have his name on the consent decree, he thought it meant only “that I was the manager of the campaign at the time or in charge of the campaign at the time.”

The legislative committee’s report appeared to endorse Laub’s view, concluding: “In fact, however, the list was not an in-kind contribution from Danny Laub.”

Instead, it was sent to Laub and fellow former advisor Michael Hafner by Greitens’ then-executive assistant Krystal Proctor “at Greitens’ direction,” the report states.

Greitens’ pivotal role in the list’s transmission was included in the felony charging document filed against Greitens in April by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner The document said that both Greitens and Proctor knew the list “was taken without the permission of The Mission Continues,” a claim the charity has made consistently.

Proctor testified to the House committee that “there was no confusion” that Laub and Hafner were going to use the list she provided for “political fundraising.” Both men testified that they did so.

Laub served as Greitens’ campaign manager at the start of Greitens’ bid for governor. He was elected in 2016.

Laub testified that every detail included in the consent degree Greitens’ certified as “complete, true, and accurate,” as well as the amended campaign disclosure his campaign filed, was a lie.

The situation made him “sick,” Laub testified, lamenting his role in a “round of news stories falsely portraying what happened.”

Michael Adams, Greitens’ campaign attorney, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a statement: “Any notion that the campaign — through an adviser, an attorney, or anyone else — would intentionally mislead the ethics commission is simply false.”

The 23-page House report focuses on allegations of wrongdoing by the first-term Republican governor. A previous report compiled by the Republican-led, seven-person committee focused on blackmail allegations against the governor. It contained graphic testimony from Greitens’ ex-lover, who claimed Greitens slapped her on multiple occasions and coerced her into sexual activity while she wept.

By the time the report came out, the governor already faced a separate felony invasion of privacy charge related to allegations he took a nonconsensual nude photo of the woman with the intent to transmit it.

Greitens has denied the allegations of blackmail, computer tampering, sexual coercion and violence. He has acknowledged engaging in an extramarital affair with the woman.

The governor has attacked the GOP-dominated House committee, Democratic St. Louis attorney, and Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley for their investigations, claiming they’re engaged in a “witch hunt” to destroy his career.

Greitens’ trial is slated to begin on May 14 in St. Louis.

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In an ominous Wednesday morning tweet, President Trump appeared to threaten to “get involved” with the Justice Department, accusing DOJ leaders of trying to hide information from Congress.

“What are they afraid of?” Trump wrote. “Why so much redacting? Why such unequal ‘justice?’ At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!”

Trump appeared to be responding to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling. At an event Tuesday, Rosenstein was asked about a group of conservative House Republicans drafting articles of impeachment against him, accusing him of stonewalling a request made by the House Intelligence Committee for documents on the Russia investigation.

“The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted,” Rosenstein replied. Coming from an official who has largely tried to remain low-key, the comments were notably pointed.

The House Intelligence Committee’s report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, released last Friday, found “no evidence” of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The document was heavily redacted, to the chagrin of the GOP lawmakers behind the document and the puzzlement of the press.

The President has recently been ramping up his threats to intervene with the DOJ, telling Fox and Friends last week that top FBI and DOJ officials were “corrupt.” Though he tries to stay away, he said, “at some point, I won’t.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urged caution on Wednesday, telling Trump in a tweet in response that the president doesn’t have the power to interfere with the Russia probe, and that firing Rosenstein or Mueller “would create a constitutional crisis.”

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A new complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday uses recent comments by President Trump, his 2020 campaign, and attorneys for his longtime fixer Michael Cohen to accuse the three parties of violating federal election law in their handling of the Stormy Daniels affair.

The complaint was brought by the American Democracy Legal Fund (ADLF), a Washington, D.C.-based progressive advocacy group.

According to the complaint, at which TPM was given an exclusive first look, the Trump team is “trying to have it both ways” by claiming that a hush money payment made by Cohen to Daniels, an adult film star who claims she had an affair with Trump, had nothing to do with the 2016 presidential campaign, while also acknowledging that Cohen represented Trump in what the President recently referred to as the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”

Campaign funds can only be spent on campaign-related expenses, which can include staffer’s legal bills that cover matters that directly arise from a campaign or a candidate’s tenure in office.

The Trump 2020 campaign acknowledged this week that they paid a total of $228,000 to McDermott Will & Emery, the firm representing Cohen, for “legal consulting” but insisted the payments “were related strictly to the Russia investigations.” The same McDermott attorney, Stephen Ryan, is also representing Cohen in the various litigation brought against him by Daniels, as well as a federal criminal investigation into Cohen’s financial dealings in the Southern District of New York.

Brad Woodhouse, ADLF treasurer, told TPM that claims the McDermott payments on Cohen’s behalf were only applied to their work on the Russia investigations don’t “pass the laugh test.”

As Woodhouse noted, Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred the probe into Cohen’s financial affairs to prosecutors in New York, signaling that they don’t have “anything to do with the Russia probe.”

The Trump re-election campaign has not yet filed its quarterly FEC report covering the period after the Daniels suits and SDNY investigation surfaced. So the amount they’ve paid to McDermott in recent months is not yet known.

Then there is the matter of the $130,000 October 2016 hush money payment Cohen made to Daniels, which is already the subject of another FEC complaint filed by the good government group Common Cause. Though Cohen initially claimed he paid out the funds in his own capacity, he sent emails related to them from a Trump Organization email address while serving as a surrogate for the campaign on TV. Campaign finance experts agree it was likely a violation of campaign finance law for Cohen to make the payment to buy Daniels’ silence while using Trump Organization resources. If Cohen did it on his own volition, as he claimed, the Trump campaign would have had to claim the money as an in-kind donation, which it did not.

Trump claimed in a recent Fox & Friends interview that the Daniels affair was one of the only matters in which Cohen represented him, after previously saying he knew nothing about the payment or the source of the funds.

Read the ADLF’s full complaint below.

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An interim U.S. attorney appointee who was personally interviewed by President Trump last year will stay indefinitely in his post, potentially giving him influence over the unfolding federal probes of Trump and his associates.

Judges in the Southern District of New York voted unanimously last week to keep Geoffrey Berman as Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor for the time being. Berman was one of 17 interim attorneys appointed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January to serve 120-day terms under the Justice Department’s vacancy policy — a deadline set to expire on May 4.

The White House has yet to formally nominate US attorneys in key judicial districts, including the SDNY. Berman will serve in his post until Trump nominates, and the Senate confirms, a permanent replacement.

Until then, Berman, a donor to Trump’s presidential campaign and former law partner of Trump pal Rudy Giuliani, will oversee federal criminal matters in the district where the Trump Organization is based, potentially making him a key player in the sprawling investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Already, Berman reportedly has recused himself from the federal probe into the business affairs of Trump’s longtime fixer, Michael Cohen. Neither Berman nor his office has explained the recusal, which came before federal agents raided Cohen’s premises earlier this month. The office’s number two, Robert Khuzami, a former top SEC official, has taken charge of the probe.

Miller, the former federal prosecutor, told TPM the recusal was a curious decision.

“It would be typical for you to liberally disclose any potential conflicts,” Miller said, “and then zealously safeguard the independence and conflict-of-interest free operation of any U.S. Attorney’s office, let alone the Southern District of New York.”

But the situation underscores how the Trump administration has flouted the typical process for filling these critical posts in the U.S. justice system.

“One would expect the judges would be acting in a non-partisan capacity and would only appoint him if they had a great deal of confidence in his impartiality and professionalism,” former federal prosecutor Steven Miller told TPM in a phone interview. Still, Miller called the situation “unusual.”

Trump has not given any explanation for his decision not to formally nominate Berman, but Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) promised to block Berman’s nomination over his one-on-one interview with Trump, which was first revealed in October 2017. The President also sat for interviews with Jessie Liu, who was confirmed last summer as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Ed McNally, a partner at the firm of Trump’s own onetime lawyer Mark Kasowitz, who was floated as U.S. attorney for New York’s Eastern District.

All three jurisdictions are relevant to the federal Russia investigation.

At the time of Berman’s appointment, Gillibrand spokesman Glen Caplin said that receiving the stamp of approval from Trump presented conflicts of interest given “potential jurisdiction on matters that could affect the president personally.”

Caplin followed up with another statement last Wednesday blaming Trump for attempting “to undermine our institutions by doing an end-run around the U.S. Senate’s advise and consent responsibility for U.S. attorney nominations.”

Gillibrand’s fellow New York Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, also reportedly told the White House back in January that he was “not supportive” of Berman’s nomination.

Robert Costello, former deputy chief of the criminal division in the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s Office, told TPM that concerns about Berman’s potential conflicts were overblown. As Costello pointed out, the former U.S. Attorney in the district, Preet Bharara, served as Schumer’s chief counsel prior to his appointment.

This winding series of affairs was set into motion last March with Sessions’ firing of 46 U.S. attorneys held over from the Obama era — a fairly standard move for a new administration. Trump has since nominated 65 people to fill the 93 total U.S. attorney positions, 63 of whom been confirmed.

Then in January, Sessions used his executive authority to step in and appoint 17 interim U.S. attorneys. That announcement came one day before the acting U.S. attorneys filling in after the mass March 2017 dismissal hit the 300-day deadline limiting how long they can legally serve.

The White House did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment on whether Trump would nominate Berman, or on the delay in rolling out the rest of his nominations.

A Justice Department spokeswoman told TPM she would defer to the White House on the timeline for filling these posts. For now, local district courts will, as in New York, appoint people to hold them until Trump and Congress can agree on permanent selections.

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A new poll out Monday offers more evidence that the scandals plaguing Gov. Eric Greitens may be dragging down Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in his neck-and-neck U.S. Senate race against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Fifty-four percent of Missouri voters want Greitens out of office, according to an Emerson College survey. His approval rating has fallen to just 33 percent, compared to 46 percent who disapprove of his job performance.

Greitens has been indicted for allegedly using a non-consensual nude photo to blackmail a woman with whom he had an affair, as well for alleged campaign finance violations. He has rejected calls from the state’s top Republicans to step down, and said he’ll be vindicated at trial.

McCaskill and Hawley, who is well ahead in the GOP primary and widely expected to become the nominee, are tied with 45 percent of the vote each. Eleven percent of voters are undecided.

These numbers align with an internal poll released by Hawley’s campaign Monday, which showed the Republican politician edging out McCaskill 47 to 46 percent, with 7 percent undecided.

A look at the polling trend-line in the race suggests Greitens is doing his party no favors. According to Real Clear Politics, in the four public polls taken before news of the blackmail claims broke in late January, all conducted by a GOP pollster, Hawley led the race by an average of 4.5 points. Hawley hasn’t led in any of the four public polls taken since January.

Though Hawley has worked hard to distance himself from the governor, Greitens’ shadow looms over the race. McCaskill’s team has painted Hawley as an opportunist who aligned himself with Greitens until the political winds shifted following his February indictment on a felony invasion of privacy charge.

Greitens has not taken these developments well, attacking Hawley’s credibility and even trying to take out a restraining order against him. A judge on Friday rejected Greitens’ request, saying Hawley’s calls for the governor to step down do not disqualify him from investigating the alleged campaign finance violations.

The Emerson poll was conducted from April 26-29 among 600 likely registered Missouri voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percent.

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President Trump distanced himself from Michael Cohen this week, as both of the cases against Cohen — the civil case involving Stormy Daniels and the federal criminal case in New York — continued to progress.

Judge Kimba Wood appointed veteran prosecutor Barbara Jones as special master in the criminal probe, where she’ll be tasked with combing through materials seized from Cohen to determine which are covered by attorney-client privilege. Cohen announced this week that, because of that criminal investigation, he is pleading the Fifth in the Daniels suit. Daniels is suing Cohen for defamation and his role in a nondisclosure agreement related to payouts she received during the 2016 campaign to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

The President touched on both investigations in a freewheeling Thursday Fox interview, where he admitted for the first time that Cohen represented him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.” Though Cohen worked exclusively for the Trump Organization for years, Trump insisted he had “nothing to do with” Cohen’s business dealings and that Cohen handled only a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work. (In January 2017, Cohen told the Wall Street Journal he had “no shortage of work” for Trump, including “all aspects of his life from his business to the personal.”)

In the same Fox interview, Trump denied telling Comey that he did not stay overnight while in Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged this week that he will retain partial oversight of the New York Cohen probe. Because of that decision, Sessions will reportedly receive regular briefings on the investigation.

Robert Mueller’s team divulged in court filings that FBI agents who raided Paul Manafort’s home and storage unit last summer were authorized to look for information on the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, as well as on Manafort’s work in Ukraine. Those revelations were intended to push back against Manafort’s arguments that the searches were illegal.

A consortium of news organizations asked that court documents in Manafort’s criminal case be unsealed due to the intense public interest.

Former FBI Director James Comey acknowledged he’s retained former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald — the special counsel in the Valerie Plame affair — as a personal attorney. Trump last week pardoned Scooter Libby, the former Bush aide who lied to Fitzgerald’s team about divulging Plame’s identity. It was a move that some — including Plame — say was meant to send a signal to former Trump allies who may be considering flipping on the President. Trump this week dismissed a query about whether he would pardon Cohen as “stupid.”

The House Intelligence Committee released its final report on its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election; Democrats say the committee did not do due diligence.

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill to protect Robert Mueller from being improperly fired by the President. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the bill will not receive a vote.

Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, doesn’t seem quite ready to bring an end to the Mueller investigation as he pledged he would. He’s reportedly restarted conversations with the special counsel about having Trump sit for an interview.

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The sheriff says he’s following the law. The inmates say they’re going hungry.

According to a string of reports from AL.com, Sheriff Todd Entrekin of Etowah County, Alabama, has pocketed over three quarters of a million dollars intended for inmates’ meals, buying himself an expensive beach house, among other items, while leaving detainees eating rotten or contaminated food. Not long after acting as a source for AL.com’s reporting, one local man found himself charged with a felony by Entrekin’s office.

Entrekin has been taking advantage of a state law, passed before World War II, that allows sheriffs to keep for themselves any excess taxpayer dollars intended to feed inmates in their jails. He’s one of 49 Alabama sheriffs named in a lawsuit filed in January by human rights groups alleging abuse of the law. The groups say that because Alabama sheriffs have complete discretion over what inmates eat, the law incentivizes sheriffs to cut costs on food.

In response, Entrekin, who is running for reelection this year, has come out swinging, calling the claims “fake news” churned out by the “liberal media.”

Entrekin did not immediately return TPM’s questions seeking comment.

Entrekin bought a $750,000 beach house, spent food funds on lawn mowing

Entrekin has admitted to accumulating extraordinary sums in what he calls his “food provision” fund. In forms filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission and obtained by AL.com, Entrekin reported he made “more than $250,000” per year over the last three years in excess government funds intended to feed inmates.

The sheriff has been cagier about where that money went.

AL.com reported that despite pulling in an annual salary of around $93,000, Entrekin and his wife in September purchased a $740,000 four-bedroom house on the Gulf Coast, and own several other properties as well.

In a March press conference, Entrekin adamantly denied using inmate-feeding funds to buy a beach house, insisting that he and his wife sold a condominium they owned to cover the $592,000 mortgage.

But AL.com surfaced other purchases, including a series of checks Entrekin used in 2015 to pay a local teenager for mowing his lawn. Matthew Qualls, now 20, showed the newspaper copies of one of the checks, which was printed with the words “Sheriff Todd Entrekin Food Provision Account.”

Inmates say they were forced to eat rotten food, went hungry

In a complaint filed in Hale County circuit court, lawyers for the Southern Coalition for Human Rights say they receive frequent letters from inmates throughout Alabama reporting that their food is “inadequate in quantity or nutritional value, spoiled, or contaminated, such as with insect or rodent droppings, or foreign objects.”

Conditions in Entrekin’s Etowah County jail are particularly well-documented, thanks to AL.com’s interviews with former inmates who worked in the kitchen. They routinely served up a meat product whose plastic wrapping was labeled “Not Fit For Human Consumption.”

Expired or contaminated food — processed mystery meat, rotten chicken, cereal past its expiration date — is donated to the prison by local non-profits and corporations and repurposed into meals, the former inmates told AL.com.

Inmates who refused to eat the spoiled food go hungry. That’s led to inmate unrest and, in at least one occasion detailed by the newspaper, a suicide attempt.

Entrekin said in a March press conference that his facility always passed inspections with “flying colors.” Calling the meals served at his jail “nutritious, healthy and balanced,” Entrekin cracked that the inmates can’t expect Domino’s, grandma’s cooking, or “cake on their birthday”

“This is a jail, this is not a bed and breakfast,” he said.

A source who spoke out against Entrekin was arrested

Four days after Matthew Qualls went on the record with AL.com about his lawn-mowing work for Entrekin, he was arrested for the first time on an anonymous tip.

Officers from the Rainbow City Police Department arrested Qualls at an apartment in town after receiving a call that marijuana smoke was emanating from inside. They charged him with second-degree marijuana possession, drug paraphernalia possession, and felony possession of a controlled substance for possessing Adderall pills without a prescription, per the newspaper’s report.

Then the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office got involved.

Qualls was subsequently charged with a second paraphernalia charge, a second felony controlled substance possession charge, and, most significantly, felony drug trafficking, for which some Alabamans have been sentenced to prison for life. Though the total amount of marijuana buds found in the apartment was well under the 2.2-pound state threshold for trafficking charges, Entrekin’s office decided to count the full 2.3 pound weight of a large container of weed butter found on the premises when calculating Quall’s charges, even though there was only about half an ounce of weed in it.

Rainbow City Police told AL.com that they would not have made such a decision. Etowah County’s Drug Enforcement Unit said they interpreted the regulations differently.

Entrekin blames the “liberal media” for the controversy over his actions

As the bad headlines have piled up, Entrekin has become increasingly vented at the “liberal media,” and its “miscellaneous fake news.”

At his March press conference, the sheriff lashed out at reporters who “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story,” blaming the press for scaring people from running for office by promoting “false attacks” and “half-truths.”

“That’s what’s wrong with politics today,” Entrekin said, describing himself as the victim of a “political smear campaign.”

The sheriff went on a similar tear during an interview this week with the Gadsden Times, describing the frequent tours inspectors make of his facility and accusing AL.com of printing “the very definition of bogus news.”

“This is the same media that argues against the death penalty for murderers, against prison time for drug dealers and against deportation of criminal, illegal immigrants,” Entrekin said.

Other sheriffs have also profited from inmate-feeding funds

Entrekin is only the latest in a long series of sheriffs who have profited from this law.

Ledgers provided to SCHR by Monroe County Sheriff Thomas Tate show that Tate pocketed around $110,000 over a three-year period in “excess” funds. As AL.com reported, that sum rose each year, even though the per diem amounts paid to his office by the state, municipal and federal government remained the same between 2014 and 2016.

In one infamous 2009 incident, Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett was jailed by a U.S. district judge for underfeeding inmates while pocketing tens of thousands of dollars. Bartlett managed this, in part, by shelling out $500 for “half of an 18-wheeler load of insurance-salvaged corn dogs,” which he fed to inmates for two meals a day for weeks, as local station WHNT reported.

Bartlett’s successor as sheriff, Ana Franklin, argued in federal court last year that there was nothing improper about her decision to loan $150,000 from her inmate’s food fund to a now-bankrupt used car dealership. Allegations that inmates were receiving reduced rations, like “a sandwich with half a slice of cheese on it,” were, she said, unrelated to Franklin’s decision to keep what she deemed additional funds.

Franklin settled with the court, returning the funds and paying a $1,000 fine. She remains in office.

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NEW YORK — A federal judge on Thursday appointed a special master to review a trove of materials seized from Michael Cohen, to determine which are covered by attorney-client privilege.

Judge Kimba Wood named Bracewell partner Barbara Jones, a former mob prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office and longtime U.S. District judge, to sort through material seized earlier this month from the office, hotel room, and apartment of Cohen, President Trump’s longtime fixer.

Jones’ work for both the government and in private practice lent her “all of the different points of view you would want to bring to these documents,” Wood said.

Though Jones was not on the suggested list of special masters offered by the parties involved in the case, no objection was made to her selection. Stephen Ryan, Cohen’s lead attorney, called her a “wonderful choice” to lead the review of materials seized as part of a wide-ranging federal grand jury investigation into Cohen’s personal and business dealings.

Joanna Hendon, the lead attorney representing Trump in the Cohen matter, said the situation represented a “compromise” for her client. She said Trump wanted to make initial privilege determinations about documents relating to him, but called the judge’s decision “acceptable.”

There was more of a conflict over what exactly Jones’ purview will be. Lawyers representing the Southern District of New York argued strenuously that it should be tightly limited to the privilege issue, and that Jones should not be empowered to declare evidence not relevant to the probe.

Both Jones and the Cohen team will be permitted to use keywords to sort through all of the seized documents to root out anything they consider privileged, the government agreed. But it was “very important,” assistant U.S. Attorney Tom McKay said repeatedly, that once that process was finished, a government “filter team” receive all of the materials deemed privileged “for the sole purpose of lodging any exception” to those designations.

If they don’t know what a particular privileged document says, McKay argued, they can’t decide whether or not it’s pertinent.

Wood said Cohen, like any criminal defendant, would likely feel uncomfortable having the government rifling through deeply personal documents like a child’s medical records.

After a brief volley, McKay insisted the government had no interest in doing so, but that the matter at hand was attorney-client privilege, not Cohen’s privacy. There was “no precedent,” he said, for a special master determining what personal materials that may have been seized could be relevant to their probe.

McKay suggested that “Cohen’s personal relationships” were in fact pertinent, and that he was concerned about “mission creep” and “slippage” if Jones or Cohen’s attorneys were to pull out specific documents that they deemed utterly unrelated to the investigation.

All parties ultimately agreed that privilege was the priority. If Jones or Cohen’s team happened in the course of their privilege review to come across a document that was, as Wood put it, completely “unresponsive,” they could set it aside, Wood said.

There were also vague hints of tension between lawyers for Cohen and Trump, who until now have been largely on the same page. After McKay made extensive comments about what materials the government should be able to review for objections, both Ryan and Hendon rushed to respond.

Hendon, already standing, began to speak, when Ryan stood and interrupted, saying, “I think it’s my turn.”

Hendon flushed and continued speaking until Ryan sat down, saying, “As the privilege holder, I appreciate your courtesy, Mr. Ryan.”

Also present at the hearing was Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels. Avenatti asked to intervene in the case on behalf of his client, who Cohen paid $130,000 just days before the 2016 presidential election to keep her from going public about allegations that she carried out an affair with Trump. After the government expressed concerns about the privilege review getting “sidetracked” by Avenatti’s involvement, Wood said she’d take a few days to review their arguments and make a formal decision.

The parties are next expected to reconvene at Manhattan’s DanielPatrick Moynihan courthouse for a status conference May 24.

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