Jailed 5 Months, AL Blogger Freed After Removing Stories

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Roger Shuler, an Alabama blogger jailed last fall for contempt concerning his posts on an alleged sex scandal involving a prominent attorney in his home state, was freed last week after five months behind bars when the posts were removed from his blog, Legal Schnauzer. Shuler had vowed not to remove the posts concerning Robert Riley Jr., son of former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. Ultimately, he told an Alabama reporter, “I saw no other way to get out of jail.”

Judge Claud Neilson ordered Shuler released based on “good faith efforts” by Shuler’s wife, Carol Shuler, to remove the Riley stories from the blog. The Alabama ACLU and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press had criticized his jailing as unconstitutional prior restraint, among other troubling First Amendment questions. Shuler, a former sports reporter in Birmingham, is widely known in Alabama for posting salacious stories on his blog about political figures in the state. He is the subject of a civil lawsuit filed by Riley. That case continues.

Alabama blogger Roger Shuler was released from a Shelby County, Ala. jail on March 26, more than five months after he was imprisoned on contempt charges for refusing to comply with a court order to take down allegedly defamatory articles. – See more at: http://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/news/blogger-roger-shuler-released-after-five-months-jail#sthash.Nc1AYJhP.dpuf

Alabama blogger Roger Shuler was released from a Shelby County, Ala. jail on March 26, more than five months after he was imprisoned on contempt charges for refusing to comply with a court order to take down allegedly defamatory articles. – See more at: http://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/news/blogger-roger-shuler-released-after-five-months-jail#sthash.Nc1AYJhP.dpuf

Alabama blogger Roger Shuler was released from a Shelby County, Ala. jail on March 26, more than five months after he was imprisoned on contempt charges for refusing to comply with a court order to take down allegedly defamatory articles. – See more at: http://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/news/blogger-roger-shuler-released-after-five-months-jail#sthash.Nc1AYJhP.dpuf
Alabama blogger Roger Shuler was released from a Shelby County, Ala. jail on March 26, more than five months after he was imprisoned on contempt charges for refusing to comply with a court order to take down allegedly defamatory articles. – See more at: http://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/news/blogger-roger-shuler-released-after-five-months-jail#sthash.Nc1AYJhP.dpuf

Alabama blogger Roger Shuler was released from a Shelby County, Ala. jail on March 26, more than five months after he was imprisoned on contempt charges for refusing to comply with a court order to take down allegedly defamatory articles.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued in an October letter that the order was an unconstitutional prior restraint. Shuler had written a series of posts on his blog, Legal Schnauzer, claiming that Robert Riley, Jr., son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley and potential candidate for a soon-to-be-vacant U.S. House of Representatives seat, had an affair with and impregnated lobbyist Liberty Duke.

Shuler was released from jail after his wife, Carol, removed most of the articles about Riley and Duke from the blog, and from You Tube and Twitter accounts, according to Alabama news outlets.

Roger Shuler said that he and his wife took down the material after all this time because he realized that complying with the court was necessary for his own security.

“I saw no other way to get out of jail. After five months in a very difficult environment … I felt my physical well-being was at stake,” Shuler said. “I had hoped to get outside legal representation that could get my release on lawful grounds. But that was very slow in developing, so I just had to make a move for what I considered to be my own survival.”

The New York Times reported in January that Shuler was “unwilling to hire a lawyer” and that he displayed “self-defeating” behavior at times.

Shuler said that he plans to seek legal remedy for the time he spent in jail, and to challenge the constitutionality of the original contempt of court charge.

“I am looking at possible legal remedies,” Shuler said. “I’m not sure yet what form those might take, but I think it is essential to explore those options.”

In July 2013, Riley filed a lawsuit against Roger and Carol Shuler, alleging that they had posted false and defamatory stories and seeking to prevent further articles from being published. Duke also filed suit against the Shulers.

The court issued a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction in October 2013, which ordered that previously posted defamatory stories be removed from the blog. It also banned the Shulers from posting further defamatory statements about Riley and Duke.

However, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, in its letter, argued that the process by which the court issued the take-down order was problematic.

“It appears that there was no full adjudication on the merits or default judgment ever issued against the Shulers on the defamation claim,” the letter states. “As such, the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunctions amount to unconstitutional prior restraints.”

– See more at: http://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/news/blogger-roger-shuler-released-after-five-months-jail#sthash.Nc1AYJhP.dpuf

Alabama blogger Roger Shuler was released from a Shelby County, Ala. jail on March 26, more than five months after he was imprisoned on contempt charges for refusing to comply with a court order to take down allegedly defamatory articles.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued in an October letter that the order was an unconstitutional prior restraint. Shuler had written a series of posts on his blog, Legal Schnauzer, claiming that Robert Riley, Jr., son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley and potential candidate for a soon-to-be-vacant U.S. House of Representatives seat, had an affair with and impregnated lobbyist Liberty Duke.

Shuler was released from jail after his wife, Carol, removed most of the articles about Riley and Duke from the blog, and from You Tube and Twitter accounts, according to Alabama news outlets.

Roger Shuler said that he and his wife took down the material after all this time because he realized that complying with the court was necessary for his own security.

“I saw no other way to get out of jail. After five months in a very difficult environment … I felt my physical well-being was at stake,” Shuler said. “I had hoped to get outside legal representation that could get my release on lawful grounds. But that was very slow in developing, so I just had to make a move for what I considered to be my own survival.”

The New York Times reported in January that Shuler was “unwilling to hire a lawyer” and that he displayed “self-defeating” behavior at times.

Shuler said that he plans to seek legal remedy for the time he spent in jail, and to challenge the constitutionality of the original contempt of court charge.

“I am looking at possible legal remedies,” Shuler said. “I’m not sure yet what form those might take, but I think it is essential to explore those options.”

In July 2013, Riley filed a lawsuit against Roger and Carol Shuler, alleging that they had posted false and defamatory stories and seeking to prevent further articles from being published. Duke also filed suit against the Shulers.

The court issued a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction in October 2013, which ordered that previously posted defamatory stories be removed from the blog. It also banned the Shulers from posting further defamatory statements about Riley and Duke.

However, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, in its letter, argued that the process by which the court issued the take-down order was problematic.

“It appears that there was no full adjudication on the merits or default judgment ever issued against the Shulers on the defamation claim,” the letter states. “As such, the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunctions amount to unconstitutional prior restraints.”

– See more at: http://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/news/blogger-roger-shuler-released-after-five-months-jail#sthash.Nc1AYJhP.dpuf

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