An Alabama citizen journalist has finally secured his freedom, having complied with a court order to delete a number of offending blog posts.
It only took five months, and a little help from his wife.
Since 2007, Roger Schuler has blogged as The Legal Schnauzer, documenting both his own legal troubles and making claims of corruption and conspiracy about local politicians. He finally hit a nerve in January 2013, when he began writing that Robert Riley, Jr., son of the former Alabama Governor Bob Riley, had impregnated lobbyist Liberty Duke and paid for her abortion. That prompted a series of court battles: Duke swore she’d never been alone with Riley; Riley successfully sued Schuler and his wife, Carol, for defamation.
A judge ruled Schuler must delete his posts about Riley and Duke. He didn’t, which led to an almost comical attempt to serve him. First, court officials came to his house to serve him papers, but he refused to answer the door, so they left. In an interview with the New York Times, Carol Schuler said a police officer then pulled them over for allegedly running a stop sign and handed them court papers, but that they refused to accept that method of delivery, throwing them out the car window as they drove away. Finally, on Oct. 23, police arrested Schuler at home and took him to Shelby County Jail.
That made Roger Schuler, by the Committee to Protect Journalists’ count, the only imprisoned journalist in the western hemisphere.
Circuit Court Judge Claud D. Neilson finally released Schuler March 26, citing the fact that Carol “has removed most of the subject matter of the injunction from the Legal Schnauzer blog,” satisfying his original order.
Taking back the blogger’s throne, Schuler wrote Thursday that Judge Neilson had put him in an almost Kafkaesque position.
“In jail, with no access to a computer or the Web, I was not physically capable of complying with the court’s order,” Schuler wrote. He also thanked his wife for finally deleting the posts.
It’s not immediately clear what Schuler’s next step will be, or whether he will continue to report on Alabama politicians. In another blog post, he lamented that “removal of the Web items was not our desired outcome.” He did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s question of whether he still intended to bring charges against Neilson, as he told the Times he planned to do in January.
Photo via Shelby County Jail. Remix by Fernando Alfonso III