Wife-beating judge digs deeper: Why Mark Fuller should be in prison

America's most heinous judge may get to return to the bench. But here's why stopping him is a total necessity

Published October 17, 2014 2:46PM (EDT)

This photo provided Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 by the Fulton County Sheriff'­s Office, shows U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller after his arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge in Atlanta.          (Anonymous)
This photo provided Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 by the Fulton County Sheriff'­s Office, shows U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller after his arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge in Atlanta. (Anonymous)

This post originally appeared on The BRAD BLOG.

Recently, the attorney for U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller (Middle District of Alabama) described the incident where the federal judge was arrested and charged for beating his second wife bloody in an Atlanta hotel room in early August as overblown.

This week, his attorney went further in describing allegations that Fuller similarly beat his first wife as little more than "nonsense" and "gossip."

Also this week, a Fuller enemy, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D), has finally spoken out about his entire sordid situation with Fuller.

Fuller's Alabama attorney Barry Ragsdale says that it was only after the release of a video showing an NFL superstar knocking out his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City that people began to care in the least about a federal judge who, according to the police, repeatedly struck and kicked his second wife Kelli and dragged her around the hotel room by her hair.

"It got caught up in the Ray Rice and NFL scandals, and it's gotten lumped into a category of domestic violence that I don't think it belongs in," Ragsdale said in his attempt to marginalize the incident on behalf of his client, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. "There was not a beating, kicking or slapping in this instance," he says.

Really? Is that the case? Well, aside from the wife, the police and the evidence at the scene suggesting otherwise, let's review the audio from Kelli Fuller's 911 call again to help determine if Ragsdale's claim is credible.

Since the audio, as we originally posted it here last month, was buried inside of a longer video segment from Chris Hayes' MSNBC show, we've taken the liberty to pull out just the audio from the call itself, as played on MSNBC, to put it into its own standalone video for easy reference. Here you go:

Really, Mr. Ragsdale? No "beating, kicking or slapping in this instance"? The 911 audio evidence strongly suggests otherwise, as did the lacerations and bruises reportedly found on Kelli Fuller's face and legs, the hair found on the floor in the room, and the blood discovered in the bathroom when police responded at the Ritz-Carlton.

We wonder if Fuller, a 2002 George W. Bush lifetime appointee to the federal bench (unless he resigns or is impeached by Congress) with a record for failing to recuse himself when presiding over trials of political opponents, would be impressed with the audio evidence from the 911 call and the testimony of police if it was presented in his court room.

In any event, Ragsdale went on to describe the reaction from the public and the calls for the federal Judge's resignation and/or impeachment from the entire Alabama Congressional delegation (including both of the state's U.S. Senators and all five Congressmen and women), the state's Governor, senior federal judges, and all sorts of newspapers from Alabama (here, here and here) to Washington D.C. as merely "overblown."

"Nonsense" and "Gossip"

"All those fine people are entitled to their opinion, but that holds no more sway over him than anything else," Ragsdale is quoted as telling the Advertiser. "He knows what occurred and the conduct he engaged in and what he hasn't, and he recognizes those politicians have a need to respond to public pressure and public passions that a federal judge doesn't have to respond to."

That's right. A federal judge doesn't need to do anything to keep his lifetime appointment to the federal bench --- other than, according to Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution, "hold their offices during good behaviour".

Listen to that 911 call again up above and let us know if you believe Fuller has engaged in "good behaviour" with his second wife Kelli. Send it to your friends, family and neighbors and ask them what they think. Post it far and wide. Send it to your Senator and member of Congress --- please --- and ask them if they believe Judge Fuller engaged in "good behaviour" with his wife in that hotel room.

If there are any remaining questions, check the available divorce documents from his previous wife Lisa, who, in 2012, alleged Judge Fuller "hit, kicked, struck, or otherwise physically abused" both her and their children; drove under the influence of alcohol with their kids in the car; was addicted to prescription medication and had an "extramarital affair" and "sexual intercourse" with his court bailiff Kelli Gregg. Ms. Gregg is now his most recent victim Kelli Fuller.

Fuller's response to the allegations were sealed by the court, for some reason, over Lisa Boyd Fuller's "strenuous" objection, despite the fact that such papers are usually public records and are not sealed if either of the two parties object. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has reportedly convened a panel to investigate Fuller's behavior, should look into those allegations (and, also, why they were sealed despite Lisa Boyd Fuller's disagreement.)

AL.com, a consortium of corporate newspapers in Alabama, is now calling for all of those records to be unsealed, just as the independent media did years ago to little success. Though the independent media did manage to obtain some of the documents containing Lisa Boyd Fuller's allegations before they were mysteriously disappeared by the court.

Fuller's attorney Ragsdale describes the allegations concerning the 2012 divorce as "nonsense," telling AL.com this week, "It is what we call gossip."

You can decide for yourself if it's little more than "gossip". Here's the damning Request for Admissions by Lisa Fuller during their divorce proceedings, in which she alleges various forms of abuse against her and her children, as well as infidelity and drug and alcohol abuse by Judge Fuller. And here is her "strenuous" Objection to Complete Sealing of File. The documents, what we have of them, were obtained and published in 2012, when the corporate media weren't particularly interested in informing the public about Fuller's behavior, by independent Alabama journalist Roger Schuler of Legal Schnauzer. Thank you, Mr. Schuler.

The 11th Circuit's panel investigating Fuller's most recent wife beating incident is said to be made up of five out-of-state judges (three men, two women). They may ultimately recommend disciplinary action to the 11th Circuit Court's Judicial Council, which may then either reprimand the judge or ask him to voluntarily resign. Their report will then be reviewed by the U.S. Judicial Conference, which may, if they wish, recommend the U.S. Congress begin impeachment proceedings to remove Fuller from the bench. Impeachment in the U.S. House and conviction in the U.S. Senate is the only way that Fuller can be forcibly removed from his $200,000/year job sitting in judgement of the alleged crimes of others. Successful impeachment of sitting federal judges is very rare in our nation's history. Most resign before it comes to that. Fuller's Birmingham attorney, however, says his client has no intention of resigning.

'Public pressure and public passions'

In Alabama, meanwhile, residents are starting to turn out to protest Fuller being allowed to continue to serve out his lifetime appointment. For now, his cases have been re-assigned to others.

Last month, supporters of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D) filed an official complaint [PDF] about Fuller with the 11th Circuit's Judicial Council. Fuller oversaw Siegelman's trial and sentencing for what 113 bi-partisan former state Attorneys General describe as something that had never been a crime before Siegelman was charged with it. Fuller failed to recuse himself from the case, despite long-held partisan and professional grudges he appears to have held against the popular Democratic Governor.

Those same supporters have also sent a letter to each member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, where impeachment proceedings would begin, if they ever do, outlining reasons for them to begin impeachment proceedings [PDF] against Fuller.

There are a number of public petitions calling for accountability for Fuller. The most popular seems to be this one from CREDO Action. While an official from the group told The BRAD BLOG some weeks ago that they had originally hoped to collect 1,000 signatures, they are now up to 113,520 signatures and have raised their goal to 150,000.

It would be a shame if the upcoming elections distracted folks from the need for accountability for this guy. He will otherwise go on to continue his lifetime appointment to the federal bench after having been allowed to take part in a pre-trial diversion program as part of a plea deal. The deal allows him, as a "first time offender" (his former wife may beg to differ), to avoid prosecution all together, once the minimal conditions --- 24 weeks of once-a-week domestic abuse counseling and an evaluation for drug and alcohol abuse --- are met and approved by the Atlanta judge.

Despite very good evidence to suggest that Kelli Fuller is the second wife the judge has gotten away with physically abusing (as well as evidence to suggest his children were victims as well), unless there is real accountability, Judge Fuller's arrest record will be completely expunged...as if nothing ever happened.

The next time he beats his wife then, Judge Fuller will, once again, be considered a "first time offender".

Siegelman finally speaks out

Without accountability, there will be consequences. Gov. Siegelman attested to that from first hand experience this week.

Until beating up his second wife, Judge Mark Fuller was perhaps best known for presiding over the political prosecution and sentencing of the former Alabama Governor, who he saw as a political opponent. [See 60 Minutes'coverage of the Siegelman prosecution here.]

When we first reported the story of Fuller's arrest in August, we included a comment we'd obtained from Siegelman's daughter Dana. She described the news of Fuller's arrest as "shocking" and "disturbing," but said the matter "seems to fall in line with the Buddhist philosophy of karma."

She demonstrated great charity for Fuller's family, and even for the judge himself. "Regardless of the pain that he has caused my family, I still wish him, his family, and especially the woman he hurt the best," she told us via email, even as her father continues to serve out the 6 1/2 year prison sentence handed to him by Fuller, who surprised many when he ordered the former Governor shackled and hauled off to jail immediately after sentencing.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Dana's father is finally speaking out on Fuller's domestic abuse charges as well, from the confines of his prison cell, in an email this week to his supporters who continue to seek his release via a new trial, the dismissal of charges --- based, in no small part, on Fuller's undisclosed conflicts of interests and failure to recuse --- or a Presidential pardon.

Here is what Siegelman told supporters about the Fuller incident this week:

I regret to hear, as I know you do, that my trial judge has gotten himself in some trouble. He was arrested when his wife, Kelli, told the police responding to her 911 call that she was beaten, kicked and dragged around by her hair in their Ritzy Atlanta hotel room. (His first wife, Lisa, made such allegations in her complaint for divorce.)

The accusations of substance abuse, domestic abuse and promiscuous behavior in his courtroom do not give me pleasure. This is something no one should take pleasure from. Especially the reports of Domestic Violence. DV hurts and it kills.

My concern with the issue of Domestic Violence is not new. Because Domestic Violence is so destructive, I did a lot as Attorney General, Lt. Governor and Governor, to prevent domestic violence and to punish those who commit such acts. I would like to tell you a frustrating and painful story about a domestic violence victim, Rhonda Hutto, that illustrates how dangerous DV can be.

Rhonda did everything right. She was still scared.

I first met Rhonda when I was having a hearing on Victims' Rights in Huntsville Alabama. Ms. Hutto came to my hearing and bravely stood and told her story. She was scared and there were tears. She had done everything right: seeking protective orders, divorcing her abusive husband, moving out of state, changing her name. To everyone's horror, about a month after Rhonda gave her testimony, Rhonda's ex-husband found and killed her.

When I appointed a Commission on Victims' Rights, I devoted it to the frustrating and painful memory of Rhonda Hutto.

We should all pray for peace with justice, pray for victims and bullies, and demand appropriate punishment for those who commit these cowardly acts. Despite my focus and all my efforts on Domestic Violence in my political career, clearly, there is still a lot more work to do.

There is a crime in the Don Siegelman case: that he is in prison and Fuller is not.

By Brad Friedman

Investigative journalist and broadcaster Brad Friedman is the creator and publisher of The BRAD Blog. He has contributed to Mother Jones, The Guardian, Truthout, Huffington Post, The Trial Lawyer magazine and Editor & Publisher.

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