My Thoughts As To Motions Filed For Judge Conaway To Recuse In Center Stage CaseRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Sep 20 2012 5:31 AM
HOUSTON COUNTY: I have purposefully waited for all filings to be in before taking any public position in regards to the recusal of Judge Mike Conaway in the Center Stage case brought by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.
Judge Mike Conaway
For 35 plus years I have been in and around the legal business in Houston County. Since 2010 almost weekly I have seen Judge Conaway. Often times I am in the courthouses and in the courtroom the people of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit allow him to preside in.
Judge Conaway is an honorable man. He takes time with the defendants in criminal cases to see who and what the circumstances are, the family support mechanism of the defendant, before making decisions in cases against people. Judge Conaway usually is up to date on the file and expects the parties/attorneys to be prepared for the cases before him.
Judge Conaway is one of the “junior judges” of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit as time spent on the bench as a Judge. However Judge Conaway is a “senior” member of the practice of law.
Judge Conaway is a honest man. He is a hard working Judge and is doing a good job for the citizens of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit.
John Watson and John Downs
Since the 1970’s I have known John Watson. My daddy would go to Circle Cafeteria each afternoon at 3 PM ( when he was not fishing ) and drink coffee. Many business people from Dothan met there. People like Sam Hathcock, Gillis Griffen, Guy Hardwick, Lex Dowling, Ed Hathcock, A.B. Clark, John Napier, and many others. Included most of the time was John Watson, Felton Woodham and others.
A lot would be talked about. I wish many of the stories of Lex Dowling and Gillis Griffen were archived about things that happen.
Since knowing John Watson, then to now, I wish that I had 1/5 of his business knowledge. He has been a very successful self made story. One that I have had the pleasure of watching and seeing over the years.
I know Mr. Watson’s son Ron. I have great respect for both Mr. Watson and Ron.
As to Mr. Downs, I know who he is. First time I ever met was at the car wash. When the bingo issue first started I saw him at Pizza Hut and he said we needed to go to lunch sometime. We never have. I have seen Mr. Downs at the lake once. Personally I do not know much about Mr. Downs personally. He seems to be a good businessman, firm and business and not as personable as Mr. Watson.
I have taken exception with them in this issue over electronic bingo. A position which I will explain further later in this article.
Control of Political Game in Dothan and Houston County
Like it or not, John Watson is a key ingredient to the political game in Dothan and Houston County. People want his support.
Some think the leaders of Dothan and Houston County call Mr. Watson every morning for instructions of the day. I laugh at those that say that. However, John Watson controls a lot of what goes on in Dothan and Houston County. He is not “a” major player, John Watson is “the” major player in the political scene in Dothan – Houston County and state politics.
If John Watson opposes you, rest assured you would not receive a Governor’s appointment. If Watson calls and gives the nod, rest assured…it will happen.
If John Watson is against it, it ain’t gonna happen! That is plain and simple.
With that said, in my opinion John Watson is a honest man. Will he take advantage of a situation to turn it into a profit? Yes. That is what all business people do. And he has had great success in doing so.
The First Motion To Recuse Filed In Center Stage
The first motion filed by HEDA in the Center Stage case was one of generality. The specifics did not focus on any particular Judge. The motion was generic based on the case in 2009 where ALL sitting Houston County Judge’s recused themselves in the case of Country Crossings.
Judge Conaway’s denial to recuse based on the first motion was proper. The publicity factor cited did not particularly fit Judge Conaway and the ex parte correspondence did not fit Judge Conaway. The correspondence was in 2009 and he was not appointed as a Judge until 2010.
The Second Motion To Recuse In Center Stage Which Focused On Judge Conaway
The second motion filed by HEDA seeking the recusal of Judge Conaway is more directly on point towards his recusal. That motion, while it might seem strong, is mild as to reasons for recusal.
If you are political at all and watch the politics like I do, the appointment of Mike Conaway to the bench was one that all political observers know without a doubt was at the hands of John Watson.
At the time of the appointment of Mike Conaway as Judge, it was a well known factor to those who observe politically the appointment was directly related to the issue of electronic bingo. No matter if that perception is right or wrong, it was perceived by those who watch the political scene. A perception long before this issue was filed and before Judge Conaway.
Center Stage opens over one year ago. The facility operates for the year. Election time comes around. Judge Conaway, being appointed, has to seek election. There was discussion in the courthouse and local political circle if he would be able to seek election. The reason was being the age factor. After age 70 you can not seek election as a Judge.
Judge Conaway could seek election and did. No one qualified against Judge Conaway or any other Judge in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit.
Time passed where no independent could run. Judge Conaway will go back in office as a Judge. But he can only serve this one 6 year stint. Because of age, unless the law changes, Judge Conaway will never be able to serve again as Judge past this 6 year term.
This is where the “perception” now opens the major conflict
Center Stage has been open and operating since June 2011. It was not until after judge Conaway was secure in the position of election without opposition the raid of Center Stage was set into motion.
The Circuit Judges were in Baldwin County as a judicial conference. All Judges except one, that being Judge Kevin Moulton. He was in the Houston County Courthouse.
The Attorney General’s Office did not seek out Judge Moulton that was in Houston County. They sought out Judge Conaway. The only Judge in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit who can never seek election again. The Judge who is secure in this election without opposition.
Coincedences do not just happen. But it does not stop there.
Judge Conaway finds probable cause and issues the search warrant.
In the response from Sonny Reagan of the Alabama Attorney General Office, he fails to respond to the fact that Reagan was one of the three people who interviewed Mike Conaway for Judge. Reagan fails to address the issue in his response the question was asked about electronic bingo to persons who interviewed for Judge. Reagan fails to address that Bob Riley took $ 7.9 million, in fact my position is Bob Riley stole $ 7.9 million dollars of BP Oil money from the victims who lost their ways and means of making a living and gave the money to Luther Strange, with the stipulation the money was to be used to fight electronic bingo. Reagan was a member of the Bob Riley team, assigned as legal brains in the electronic bingo. When Riley leaves Reagan returns to the Attorney General’s Office and continues the fight.
It is a well known fact, that Luther Strange is Attorney General of Alabama because Bob Riley went on a mission to destroy Troy King.
It was not until Riley and Strange were caught with their hands in the oil barrel was the $ 7.9 million dollars returned to used for it’s original purpose – the hurting people of this state.
Sonny Reagan stayed completely away from those facts in his response to the motion to recuse.
From those in the political circles, it is a well known fact that if John Watson wanted electronic bingo, electronic bingo would be happening.
Then with Judge Conaway in business dealings with John Watson, that again gives the perception of conflicts.
If Court Is To Uphold Integrity And Trust, Then Judge Conaway Must Recuse
The issue is not if Judge Mike Conaway will be able to take the facts, apply those facts to the law, and make an accurate determination of those facts based solely on the laws of the State of Alabama.
The issue is, based on the totality of the circumstances of Judge Conaway’s appointment, recommendations, persons who conducted the interviews for his Judgeship, the fact he can never seek election again, the time to qualify had expired, the AG Office sought only Judge Conway out, the business relationship with Mr. Watson and the public position of Mr. Watson, and the timing of the raid, no reasonable person can say the trust of the public and the confidence of the public will not be destroyed if Judge Conaway remains on this case.
No matter what the decision of Judge Conaway is, not matter what he would base that decision on and could justify that position, the public would always question it. When that conflict could simply be erased by his recusal.
Some have said Mike Conaway is to stubborn to recuse. I say Judge Conaway is to honorable not to recuse.
Judge Conaway is not afraid of the case or in making a decision. But in his years of wisdom, I think Judge Conaway is fully aware of the fact, having the people trust and respect the judicial process and the integrity of himself and all Judges in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit is far more important of an issue.
This Issue Needs a vote of the people
I DO NOT care if we play electronic bingo or not. I do care that the people of this state are given the chance to cast their vote. And then the issue is settled once and for all.