Now that Mark Pryor is Arkansas's senior senator, scuttlebutt has changed in regards to pending federal judicial vacancies in Arkansas. A seat in the Western District, where Judge Harry Barnes took senior status, remains an open question. A seat in the Eastern District in Little Rock likewise still lacks a nominee. Here's where the scuttlebutt comes in. Word comes that Pryor is pushing hard for nomination of Amy Russell, wife of his former top aide Bob Russell, for the judgeship. It's a move that doesn't sit well with some Democrats, who believe a Democratic president should look at hard at political credentials. Russell is a former campaign contributor to George W. Bush. She reportedly is now under White House review.
Wrinkle in robbery
Joe Alley, who shot two alleged robbers who'd taken cash from him at his Joe's Grocery and Deli on Col. Glenn Road earlier this week, has a criminal record on drug charges that raises the question of whether he could legally possess a gun.
The Times uncovered this information last week and other media subsequently followed up on our report, confirmed by Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley and the case file.
Alley entered negotiated pleas June 11, 2001, to two Class D felony charges for failing to report sales of "drug precursors," specifically pseudoephedrine, used in making methamphetamines. He received four years' probation and a $10,000 fine. He was initially charged with five felonies, including manufacture of meth at the grocery. His wife Sana was also charged, but charges against her were dropped. Information in the file said he sold bulk quantities of over-the-counter drugs used in making meth, including on several occasions to undercover officers.
Felon with firearm
State law prohibits people convicted of felonies from owning or possessing firearms. Prosecutor Larry Jegley said Alley had told police officers that his attorney in the case had taken steps to restore his firearm rights, but we've been unable to contact his attorney to confirm that. A motion to seal the file in his case because Alley completed probation is pending. That might qualify Alley for expungement of his record and end the bar to his possession of a weapon.
The case file shows that a condition of his probation was that he not possess a weapon. Alley told the Democrat-Gazette in an article published Friday that there'd been a gun in the store since he took it over in 1979.
Jegley said he wasn't prepared to comment on what course he might take, if any, if Alley still was prohibited from possessing a firearm. He said he first wants to see investigations from Little Rock police on the reported robbery of the store and then on the review of Alley's shooting of two suspects. One was shot in the leg and the other was shot in the chest but are expected to survive. They drove away from the scene, but didn't get far before stopping and calling 911 for medical assistance.
We tried to call Alley. His son answered the store telephone and said his father was not granting further interviews. Asked about the old case, he said, "That was over 15 years ago." He referred questions to Alley's attorney. According to a record of the case, Alley was charged for incidents in 2000.
An orientation session was held recently for newly elected county clerks, including Dennis Milligan of Saline County. Milligan didn't attend, another attendee reported. But a man who said he represented Milligan, and who identified himself as an employee of the Republican Party, said he had one question: "He wanted to know how Milligan could fire all his employees," our source said.
Milligan shortly created a local controversy by firing several employees, including one he'd initially told would be retained. She was fired after posting regrets for her colleagues on a Facebook page and saying she'd pray for them. She's filed a lawsuit over her firing. The state Constitution gives county officials broad authority to hire and fire employees, but it will be a question for a court to decide whether that includes firing someone for exercising a free speech right.
Milligan didn't return our call on his representative at the clerks' meeting.
Blast from the past
It's ancient history now, but some might remember Paul Levy, director of the state energy office in Bill Clinton's first term as Arkansas governor in 1979-80. He was one of several brainy Yankees who joined the Clinton team. Like some others, he soon found themselves crosswise locally for, how would you put it?, overly ambitious ways. In Levy's case, he made the mistake of wisecracking to Arkansas Democrat columnist and managing editor John R. Starr about a newspaper report on an agency expenditure on a staff retreat, including corkscrews for attendees. It helped inspire a regular Boondoggler award from Starr, mostly awarded to Clinton administration efforts. Levy soon enough was gone, along with Clinton, defeated by Frank White in 1980.
Levy was in the news this week in Boston after he stepped down as CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center after nine years. Boston newspaper accounts credit him with guiding the nonprofit to financial health, but he also was embroiled in controversy over his relationship with a female staff member, a relationship that prompted a $50,000 fine from the hospital board. Levy said that controversy played no role in his decision to leave. He said he was 60 and wanted to re-evaluate his career.