Sunday, June 29, 2008

Some Drug Traffickers Are More Equal Than Others

Published at Capital City Free Press

Do you ever wonder if the justice system in Alabama is fair? Ever questioned whether justice here is indeed blind? Is it important to you that everyone be treated equal under the law?

I believe most citizen's have asked themselves those questions at one time or another. Warning: If you are one of the citizen's who is convinced that we have a fair, neutral and blind justice system in this state and that everyone is treated the same according to the law then you probably shouldn't read any further. I take no responsibility for any meltdown you might have as a result of being exposed to the truth.

On March 1, 2008 John Alexander Rochester, son of 40th Circuit Court Judge John Rochester, was arrested at the Ashland City Park in Ashland, AL for trafficking of meth, first degree possession of marijuana, trafficking cocaine, possession of paraphernalia, distribution of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance. I immediately began following the case.

Actually, 'following' the case is not the right term. Reporting the case is much more like it, since no other media outlet in the state has deemed it newsworthy to report the arrest of a judge's son for drug trafficking and the special treatment he is receiving from the court system. Yet, every other regular Jim Bob or Mary Jane that has been arrested for the same or similar offenses has had their name and alleged crimes reported in their hometown papers and on the 5 O'Clock News. I've contacted the Clay Times Journal, the Anniston Star, the Birmingham News and all television stations in the Birmingham Area about this, but none of them have responded. The Clay Times Journal is the local paper in Clay County. A search of their site turns up absolutely nothing about the Rochester case, but boldly displayed on their front page is this story. Hmmmmm.....

(UPDATE: I got a response from someone at the Clay Times Journal about this story.
Our publisher and editor is out of town this week. Please e-mail a phone number so he can contact you directly.
For your information, our web site was not up and running when Rochester was arrested, and we did run a story on the matter. I do not remember the date and am too involved with the current issue. I will check after we get through later this week.

I was unaware that they did not have a website up and running when Rochester was originally arrested. I will post their story as soon as I get it.)


There are many things that make this a more than newsworthy case. First, this is a rich, white kid, who is the son of a prominent judge getting racked up on very serious drug charges. He obviously wasn't selling to support his own habit, like most other people charged with trafficking are. He wasn't selling because he needed the money. His family has plenty of money. Usually, it is some poor white kid, black kid or hispanic kid busted for selling a dime bag to his buddy out of his own quater bag that gets whacked with the trafficking charge. Never a judges son.

Second, Judge Rochester is legendary for harshly sentencing drug offenders who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in his courtroom. I've sat in his courtroom as an observer and also as a family member of a defendant over the course of many years. Ashland is my hometown, you see. He once sentenced a kid I went to church with to five years in prison for possession of one Xanax. This kid had no prior record. On another occasion I saw him hand down a five year sentence to a truck driver for personal possession of meth. Ordered him straight to Kilby. Again, this gentleman had no priors. And Judge Rochester always drug tests defendants before the trial. Lines them up like cattle and demands their bodily fluids in hopes of bypassing that pesky thing known as a trial by jury.

Judge Rochester doesn't believe in drug treatment before prison. In fact, one of his favorite sayings is, "There's a SAP program in prison" whenever a lawyer asks that their client be allowed to attend treatment. SAP stands for substance abuse program.

I've talked to lawyers from the town where I now reside who regularly argue cases before him and many of them say they charge double to take a case if it is going to be in Rochester's courtroom. They also tell stories of the judge's contempt for defendants and even for the counsel. He is a tyrant when on the bench.

So, for someone like me, who has made a career out of reforming Alabama's drug laws, spends a lot of time and effort attempting to bring fairness to drug defendants in the justice system and trying to get the media to cover the different sides of the prohibition issue, this case is the perfect storm. Will Judge Rochester's son be treated the same way all drug defendants are treated in Clay County? Will his bonds be comparable to the bonds of regular folks up on the same charges? Will he be made to stand in line with the rest of the folks to await his turn to piss in a cup? Will he be denied the opportunity to attend treatment while awaiting trial? Will the media step up and do its job in this case, which is to inform the public?

That the public know the answers to these and other questions is imperative. We pay this judge's salary, he sentences our children and family members and we have a right to expect that his family members will be subject to the same sanctions under the law for the same or worse crimes, as we are. We have a right to expect that treatment will be equal. So far I'd have to say the treatment of John Alexander Rochester has been anything but equal.

John Alexander Rochester spent 23 days in the Ashland jail and was then bonded out by his mother for a total of $20,000 and whisked away to treatment in Mississippi to await the next convening of the grand jury in Clay County.

The judge who set the bonds is Judge George C. Simpson, the district court Judge in Clay County, which means he is subordinate to Judge Rochester and good friends with him to boot. The very fact that the case was not heard outside the county or that no unbiased judge was brought in to preside over the bond hearing should outrage everyone who expects fairness in our judicial system, regardless of how they feel about drugs or drug users. But, wait, it gets worse.

I was able to come by all six case action summaries for the Rochester case and five additional comparison cases with the same or similar charges during the same time frame for other people who don't have the luxury of having their daddy be a judge.

There are some whopping disparities.

The bond schedule sets the bond for drug trafficking anywhere from $5,000 to $1,500,000. Class A felony bonds range from $10,000 to $60,000, Class B felony bonds range from $5,000 to $30,000 and Class C felony bonds range from $2500 to $15,000. Class A Misdemeanor bonds range from $300 to $6,000.

Judge George Simpson set the bonds in all the following cases.


Regular Citizens before Judge Simpson


Charge - Unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance Second Degree - Bond $30,000 Class B Felony (This bond is the maximum)

Charge - Unlawful distribution of a controlled substance - Bond $30,000 Class B Felony (This bond is the maximum)

Charge - Unlawful distribution of a controlled substance - Bond $100,000 Class B Felony (This bond is $70,000 more than the maximum on the bond schedule)

Charge - Unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance - Bond $50,000 Class B Felony (This bond is $20,000 more than what the bond schedule says it should be at the highest)

Charge - Possession of a controlled substance - Bond $30,000 Class C Felony (This bond is twice what the schedule says it should be at the highest)

Compare to the bonds that John Alexander Rochester received from Judge Simpson.


John Alexander Rochester's Bonds

Charge - Trafficking of Methyl Amphetamine - Bond $20,000, Class C Felony

Charge - possession of drug paraphernalia - Bond $5,000, Class A Misdemeanor

Charge - distribution of a controlled substance - Bond $15,000, Class B Felony
(the other two people charged with this crime had bonds of $30,000 and $100,000)

Charge - possession of a controlled substance - Bond $15,000, Class C Felony
This fine is only half or less of what other defendants charged with the same offense had to pay. Why were others charged double or more?

Charge - 1st degree possession of marijuana - Bond $10,000, Class C Felony

Charge - trafficking cocaine - Bond $20,000. Class A Felony
Now this one could have been considered drug trafficking and probably would have been if it were anybody else's kid. The bond could have been set up to 1.5 million dollars, but it looks like the judge went for the Class A Felony bond and not the drug trafficking bond. Why?

In at least two cases John Alexander Rochester's bond was half (or less) what other people charged with the same crime had to pay. In most of the other cases the bonds are way higher than what the bond schedule says they should be. That makes this even more disgusting because the Rochester's have plenty of money while the other folks don't. The Rochester's could pay almost any bond amount and not be hurt too bad by it financially...but these other, common, regular citizens, who probably make barely above minimum wage working at Tyson or Piggly Wiggly or Bill's Dollar Store, will go broke trying to scrape up enough money to get out.

Additionally, John Alexander Rochester should have enhancements added to his sentence because he was selling drugs at the city park for goodness sake. The city park where the little children who inhabit the safe town of Ashland play on the monster truck and tractor toys and hang upside down from the monkey bars. What about the children? Isn't that what we always hear? The city park is also within a three mile radius of the schools and many public housing complexes. Ashland is tiny. Just about everything in it is in a three mile radius. Here is a map

View Larger Map

Rochester was arrested at 2nd St. NW which is the city park. A stones throw away at 2nd St NW and 2nd St E. is a daycare center/headstart. Across the street from the park is a public housing complex. At 3rd St SW are the high school and elementary school. You get the picture.

Here are the parts of the Alabama Code that deal with sales within a three mile radius.

Distribution within three miles of a school 5 year enhancement with no provision for probation
Distribution within three miles of public housing 5 year enhancement with no provision for probation
Use of Drug paraphernalia within three miles of public housing Subject to forfeiture

The only catch is that the prosecutor has to ask that these additional penalties be imposed. Think that will happen in this case? Do you think it would be likely to happen in other cases where the defendant isn't related to the judge? I am currently looking for cases in Clay County where the enhancements have been imposed. I'll let everyone know if I find any.

Some of the crimes John Alexander Rochester is charged with call for mandatory minimum prison sentences. Here are the sections of the Alabama Code that deal with mandatory minimums.

Trafficking in marijuana, cocaine, meth

Sentences not to be deferred or reduced (unless the prosecutor asks for it to be or the defendant narcs out his connections)

This is so VILE! There ought not be two sets of rules in our judicial system. Our media ought not be biased in what it reports or about whom it reports based on who they are related to. This case clearly shows that we do, in fact, have two sets of rules in both our judicial system and in our media. If you are a regular nobody like this guy then you get your face plastered all over the 5 O'Clock news for a few measly pounds of pot that you weren't peddling at the city park where children play and your bond is set at half a million bucks. Reckon that guy will be allowed to attend treatment while he awaits trial?

If you are a judges son, caught selling a wide variety of drugs including cocaine, in a city park where children play then the media will never report it and your bonds will be set at what amounts to pocket change by a Judge who is both subordinate to your father and a close friend of your father. You will be allowed to attend treatment out of state while you await trial because your family can afford to buy you a treatment bed anywhere there happens to be one open.

I am unsure of John Alexander Rochester's current whereabouts. He was last reported to have been in treatment in Mississippi. Seeing as how that was three months ago there is a good chance he is out now. The next phase in this case will be the convening of the grand jury in Clay County. That is likely to happen sometime in September or October. This case will either have to be moved out of Clay County entirely or a different judge will have to be brought in. That actually should have happened at the bond hearing. I'm in favor of moving it to the furtherest corner of Alabama where Judge John Rochester has never been heard of and wields no power to influence the outcome of the trial.

I wish there was some way to replace the prosecutor as well. We know his effort to hang the judge's son will not be as pure as the driven snow, like they are in other cases. I have serious doubts that he will ask for the judge to impose the enhancements that young Rochester is eligible for but that he will be able to get around the mandatory minimum sentences the law calls for.

I'll be watching this case closely and attending as many of the court hearings as I can....assuming they are made public beforehand. I am also in the process of compiling all of the information that I currently have into a formal complaint to the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission. It is clear to me that Judge Simpson, at least, has violated some of the Canons of Judicial Ethics by not recusing himself from the case as it is clear that some would see his handling of it as biased and as a major conflict of interest. The difference in the bonds for Rochester and others is very interesting too. I wonder what they will make of that?

There is one more thing I want to add before leaving this story to be continued and its this. I don't think anyone should go to jail for non-violent drug offenses. I don't even think drugs should be against the law. But, I do think that we citizens are entitled to fairness and equal treatment in our judicial system and if everyone else not fortunate enough to have a judge for a parent has to pay the piper with prison time for non-violent drug offenses, then so should Mr. John Alexander Rochester. I'm certainly not paying for me to go to prison and him not to go to prison for the same offense. I don't think anyone else is either.



To be continued....

Loretta Nall





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43 comments:

Kathy said...

Wow! The burial of this story is similar to what happened when Jabo Waggoner's son left the scene of an accident and then "disappeared" for a couple of days, presumably to dry out. I've heard nothing since the initial report.

Loretta Nall said...

I heard about Waggoner's son but have been unable to find out anything other than he had a wreck while driving drunk.

Was the other person badly injured? What else do you know about this?

Kathy said...

The report I saw said no one was injured and the state patrol was diverted on the way to the scene, arriving two hours later. Can't say I blame everyone for leaving, but the boat wreck and "disappearance" that followed was really weird.

Loretta Nall said...

This is too weird! Why were the troopers two hours late getting there? I can't imagine that would happen unless there was some large disaster where they had to be..but I suspect they were diverted by someone much higher up the food chain and it had nothing to do with another disaster. But...I cold be wrong

Haven't heard about the boat accident or the disappearance afterwards.

What is Jabo's son's name?

Anonymous said...

Keep it up, this is the type of thing that needs coverage. Hopefully the local community can apply pressure on the Judge and make some changes.

Thanks for taking the time to get the word out.

Anonymous said...

Can you post the Judge's contact info? Also his superior's contact info would be nice too.

This should not happen and something needs to be done to stop these corrupt civil servants. I think they need to be reminded they work for the tax payers.

Loretta Nall said...

Circuit Judge Circuit: 40
John E Rochester
(256) 354-2242
# P.O. Box 40

# Ashland, 36251

I don't know who his superior would be. He has to answer to the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission and I am working on the complaint.

Paladin said...

Not to condone favorable treatment for the children of judges, but you failed to tell us whether the other people had significant community ties, whether they had prior records, or any other facts that might make the judge deem them a flight risk.

The purpose of a bond is not to punish, but rather to assure the defendant's presence at trial, so there are other facts here we need to know.

Loretta Nall said...

paladin,

I don't currently have that information. I have someone researching it for me. Generally that kind of stuff comes out at trial. It isn't included in the case action summaries which is all I have available at present.

Loretta Nall said...

District Judge Circuit: 40
George C Simpson (256) 354-7633
# P.O. Box 880

thejon.org said...

Must be a hard job to get all the information and facts sorted out. But since the media is not doing their job, someone has to do it. Keep up the good work!

Loretta Nall said...

it's not too bad thejon. I have a lot of friends in the legal community who help me out behind the scenes. And truthfully I am having so much fun fucking with the people who spend their lives fucking up the lives of others that it hardly seems like work at all :)

Getting access to all of the things that the media would have access to is the problem.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather see posters/pictures of the kid and his family put on telephone poles all around. roach-clips would be a nice touch. :)

Anonymous said...

Be careful, Loretta. The judicial system in Alabama is as corrupt as any you'll find in the USA. Just look at what's happened to the former governor.

If you engage in any illegal behavior or have any unresolved skeletons in your closet, I recommend takings steps to remedy those ASAP.

If you have powerful (and trustworthy) lawyer friends and contacts in the mainstream media, you're probably relatively safe. But my family has been on the receiving end of a corrupt judge's wrath. Let me tell you, it is a dangerous and powerless place to be. The judicial system in AL is one big club of friends, and if you go after a judge for fraud or misconduct, they all join ranks to protect their most prized position: the corrupt system of power.

Good luck. You're a better warrior for justice than I.

Loretta Nall said...

I'm not too worried. If anything happens to me y'all will know who to look at first at least.

Anonymous said...

This is really frightening.

Anonymous said...

Loretta,

since this made it onto the number 2 spot on reddit, I'm sure this unhonorable judge will be getting a deluge of mail from reddit readers.

Keep up the great work. Glad to see you running as a libertarian!

Michael

Anonymous said...

The "Be careful, Loretta." message sounds more like a veiled threat than a warning to me.

Anonymous said...

Found your story on Reddit. Good luck with your case.

Anonymous said...

Amazing. And, just think...given the above information, sending a dealer, even an alledged dealer, to treatment is akin to sending a pedophile to a daycare...

Chaos Motor said...

WOWOWOWOW!

I just called Judge Simpson's office.

"Judge Simpson's office."

"Why has Judge Simpson not recused himself from the case of John Alexander Rochester?"

"Who is this?"

"I'm an interested citizen and would like to know why Judge Simpson has not recused himself from an obvious conflict of interest."

*click*

I called back.

"Judge Simpson's office."

"I think there was an error, we were disconnected. I would like to know why Judge Simpson has not recused himself from an obvious conflict of interest."

"We weren't disconnected, I hung up on you."

"Why did you hang up on me?"

"I don't speak to people who don't tell me their name!"

-I told her my name-

"Now that you have that, could you tell me why Judge Simpson has not recused himself?"

"I don't have to tell you anything!"

-This went back and forth a while, the only information I obtained was that the person on the phone is apparently not employed by the state but privately by the Judge.-

"But doesn't the Judge employ you using his official budget? That makes you an employee of the public."

"I don't have to tell you anything. I'm not at liberty to discuss anything."

"So you, as an individual, don't see any problem with the Judge not recusing himself from an obvious conflict of interest?"

"He has not been before the Judge."

"Then how did he set bonds for Mr. Rochester that are much lower than bonds set for comparable cases?"

"I don't have to tell you anything. Please do not call us again."

*click*

Called again.

"Judge Simpson's office."

"Yes ma'am, do you really not see a problem...

*click*

[with the Judge providing favors to the children of his friends?"]

We may not be able to get to Judge Simpson, but if we can at least put that seed in the head of his secretary... "Why is my boss getting so many calls about conflicts of interest? What's going on here?" Maybe she will talk to him about that, "Judge, we've been receiving many calls about the Rochester case..."

Flood them, people, keep calling.

Loretta Nall said...

Chaos Motor that ROCKS!!! Thanks for calling. Enough people call and they will be running scared. Judge Simpson will have to answer to the Judicial Inquiry Commission.

ben palmer said...

"our web site was not up and running when Rochester was arrested, and we did run a story on the matter. I do not remember the date ..."
They know when the web site was down, but don't know when they ran the story? Must have been while the web site was down, by all logic.

Anonymous said...

According to friends- George Simpson did not handle the bond. Did you actually see that?? Also, John Alex is in rehab not in Mississippi, but he is in rehab until his case comes up in court. On his bond it's either he be in jail or rehab, I believe. I also have heard the reason John Alex had to sell was because his parents cut him off financially. They told him to hit the streets. His friend also told me he had a $1500 a month coke habit. Also, I read the article the Clay Times Journal- it was in there and it was on the radio. These things happen all the time- I know a judges son in St. Clair county who was arrested many times for drugs. It's not right but it's human. We shouldn't hold the judge responsible for his son. We can raise children right but they still will make mistakes.

Anonymous said...

There are a few untrue statements you have reported:

-alex did not have and is not charged with meth

-alex is not in mississippi but is in rehab

-Judge Simpson did not handle the bond

-Judge Rochester let my cousin and my friend go to rehab

-Rochester is set to retire after this term- according to his daughter

According to your opinions based on the article it's damned if you do damned if you don't. I've always liked Rochester and I hate this for him.

Loretta Nall said...

Dear Anonymous

STOP LYING!! I have the case action summaries direct from the AOC website which states that John Alexander was charged with possession of methyl amphetimine and also that Judge Simpson handled the bonds. Its right there in black and white, its public information and you cannot lie about it.

Loretta Nall said...

I'm sorry it was TRAFFICKING of meth and not mere possession.

Case #: 17dc200800009600
Assigned to: George C Simpson
Charge 01: Trafficking 3,4 meth CNTS: 001

Disposed of by : George C Simpson

Anyone with access to the Alabama Office of the Courts can look this up.

And I have to wonder who your friend and cousin are that Rochester would allow them to go to treatment. I suspect they somehow have connections that others don't.

Anonymous said...

My cousin and I have no connections- He works at Welborn's and I work in Talladega-I'm just reporting what I've heard like you are doing. I've seen him at Maggies a few times, but we are not friends. I just don't like bullies that make mountains out of molehills. Where you have a few examples of Judge Rochester being harsh, I have a more stories of him being fair and people being happy of his decisions. I was told there was no meth charge and that Judge Simpson didn't set bonds. I mean they know the Rochester's could afford any bond amount why would it matter? Do you think they would risk losing there jobs over a few bucks? I mean the Rochester's are millionaires. Do you have a job Mrs. Nall? I bet you don't.

Anonymous said...

There are soo many more important things going on in this world!! Bigger scandals, and injustices. Where is Ashland?? I can't believe 44 people care about this non-issue.

Anonymous said...

HAHA!! this all is such non-issue!! Did you know that we are in war with Iraq, gas is out the roof expensive, milk and food are expensive, health care is a joke, retirement?, schools getting shot up, jobs are getting cut, global warming is killing the environment, etc. The kid got an $85,000 bond. That's pretty expensive to me, sounds fair. Really though it doesn't even matter. We could all be dead from global warming in a year anyways.

Loretta Nall said...

>>Do you have a job Mrs. Nall? I bet you don't.<<

Well, obviously I do. I get paid to make judges who break the law pay the piper. It's almost too much fun to be classified as a job...but I get paid for it....can you believe that?

>>I can't believe 44 people care about this non-issue<<

Funny, corruption in the judicial system is a very big issue. And judging from the calls the Clay Times Journal and Judge Simpson's office are being bombarded with I'd say way more than 44 people care about it. The Judicial Inquiry Commission is gonna care about it too.

And to the commenter worried about global warming, high food and gas prices and war....what does any of that have to do with the price of tea in China? So, I guess since the world might end of global warming in a year then John Alexander Rochester should be allowed to go free while others convicted of the same offenses and sent to jail by Rochester's daddy and Judge Simpson spend the last year of life on earth rotting away in a government cage....Yeah that makes a lot of sense. NOT!

I have to tell you...it does my heart good to see supporters of the Rochester clan make these pitiful attempts to justify what they have done. To see them scampering for cover under the nearest fig leaf is priceless. It is always amusing when aristocracy gets caught applying a different set of rules to others than the ones they themselves live by. I'd say y'all are BUSTED! Now it's time to sit back and enjoy the ride up the creek that you have sent so many others on.

mdm-adph said...

"Do you have a job Mrs. Nall?"

...and there's the elitism. That and the comment about them being millionaires leads me to believe that this is one of those "poor people are poor because they're bad people" folks.

Jim said...

I was just curious as to the current status of your very interesting, however naueseating, investigation? I am currently waiting for word on a dear friends bond hearing here in GA for drug related charges. It never ceases to amaze me how much money our idiotic government will spend trying to regulate drugs while they just kind of ignore alcohol and tobacco... seems if we spent the billions upon billions of dollars on our education system rather than a bucnh of power tripping narc units, the dea, and what has to be an astronomical cost to the tax payer to house all of these inmates we produce... jesus... we'd probably end up with a whole shit load of kids smart enough to make better choices about what they decide to put in their bodies - which, again, silly me - I thought was our f**king choice to begin with... thats the government at its best - 'lets try to regulate stupidity'... dont educate the masses, lock them away in prison for their lack of it... sometimes it makes me wonder how we've managed to make it this far without imploding on ourselves just from the overinflated bulk of our own 'public servants'....

**sigh** I digress... keep up the good work and I will keep my eye on this to see what becomes of it.

There is nothing more annoying than some asshole in a position of power who thinks 'do as I say, not as I do' is a valid way to serve the public... I guess that explains why they dont want to educate the masses...

Loretta Nall said...

Hi Jim,

I couldn't agree more with your sentiments on the stupidity of the drug war. As of now I have a major Alabama newspaper following and investigating the story. They are waiting to see what the grand jury did about two weeks ago with the Rochester case. The circuit clerks office is being less than co-operative at this point but they can only stall so long. And the longer they stall the more credence it adds to the assertion that this case isn't being handled like other cases of this nature because young Mr. Rochester is 'special' because of who his daddy is.

Anonymous said...

I hear Alex was also able to come home and visit over the holidays. It's only through the grapevine, but after all the other treatment I really wouldn't doubt it.

Anonymous said...

It dosen't shock me. Has anything changed since the initial posting or arrest?

Loretta Nall said...

No known changes at this point.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog, you've got some great information. This is an incredible story, and just shows how much hypocrisy is built in not only our laws, but in the officials that are in charge of drilling out punishment. I hope this Judge stops being so corrupt.
I'm in the medical marijuana business (we have 7 doctors offices in California), so I'm well aware of how much our laws make no sense (and how officials sometimes follow them, sometimes don't).
http://www.marijuanamedicine.com

Anonymous said...

www.ssdp.org

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Sorry for offtopic

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I have a message for the webmaster/admin here at www.blogger.com.

May I use some of the information from this post above if I give a backlink back to this website?

Thanks,
Daniel

Loretta Nall said...

Hi Daniel,

Please feel free to use information in this post.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Governor Bob Riley's hometown is so full of excitement ;^)