Connect with us

The Story Of Lon And Jim: Torn Apart After 34 Years By The Hidden Evils Of Marriage Inequality



In this exclusive interview, Sarah Beach tells the story of Lon Watts and Jim Heath, who met at church in 1979. It was love at first sight. They went on a date that lasted four days, moved in together on day five, and were torn apart by an unscrupulous relative and the law because they couldn’t marry.


In 2005, citizens in Texas lined up in record numbers to vote on Proposition 2, a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage –- and banning the creation or recognition of any legal status identical or similar to marriage. Supported by obscene amounts of money from conservative right-wing Christian groups, and by such local luminaries as Governor Rick Perry, Focus on the Family, and the Ku Klux Klan, Prop 2 passed by a huge — more three-to-one — margin.

2005 was also the year Lon Watts, a native Texan, noticed that his longtime partner, Jim Heath, was starting to have strange foggy spells. Jim would stare off into the middle distance, looking preoccupied and confused. At first Lon thought Jim was upset with him. But when Lon tried to talk to Jim about it, Jim would mention things from the past as if they were happening right then. Lon’s heart sank; something was terribly wrong with the man Lon had loved and committed his life to for over 30 years.

These two events — the passing of Proposition 2, and Jim Heath’s diagnosis with early-onset Alzheimer’s — combined to devastate the lives of both Lon and Jim, among many other gay couples in Texas. It’s the same in every state that does not recognize, or outright bans, same-sex marriage. The prejudice of some voters, and perhaps the cynical hopelessness of others, does not simply rob gay couples of a wedding — it makes people like Lon and Jim helplessly vulnerable, denying them the legal benefits bestowed by marriage. Because of Texas’ anti-gay law, Lon and Jim were unable to stop the horrifically cruel events that would play out over the next eight years. Lon and Jim’s story points out with stark clarity why marriage equality is vitally important, not just state-by-state but on a national level.

In 1979, Lon Watts, a shy, tall, self-described “loner” from Pecos, Texas was living in Houston. Growing up with an old-style Southern Baptist mother who listened to Andrew Womack rage about the evil homosexuals on the radio every day, Lon kept to himself. He was a big guy, and strong, but that didn’t stop the bullies and the gossip. Houston was much better — he even found a gay-friendly place of worship, the Metropolitan Community Church. He started coming out of his shell, a little bit, but mostly he was still pretty shy.

Which is why Lon surprised himself by what he said one evening to a total stranger, one Sunday after church service. “I was standing there, and I looked across the room, and I saw this man,” Lon said, his voice sounding amazed and happy even over the phone with me, 34 years later. “He looked like a cross between Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds. And I thought to myself, ‘Whoa, daddy!'” Lon laughs. “And believe it or not, I walked right up to him and I said, ‘Hello, gorgeous!'” And Jim smiled at me, and, well, that was it.”

I asked Lon, “What happened next?”

“He whisked me away on a four-day whirlwind date, in his slick little Cadillac El Dorado.”

“So, when did you finally decide to commit to each other and move in together?” I asked. “Oh, day five,” says Lon, nonchalantly. “That was it, you see.”

And that was it. Love at first sight, for both of them. An instant, strong, profound connection between two people, both smart enough to know what they’d found, and eager to start a life together. And oh, boy, what a life they had.

Jim was the outgoing one, the older one, the successful businessman who was good at social gatherings. Lon was younger, more introverted, but a born caretaker and an excellent gardener. Jim made the best coffee Lon had ever tasted, and they both loved decorating the house every year for Christmas, Jim’s favorite holiday. They got to know each others’ families. Family was one of their most central values — plus love, commitment, helping others, and giving back to the community. They had great parties, they participated in community events, and they volunteered. Neither one of them strayed — they never wanted to.

Still, they didn’t have the freedoms taken for granted by straight couples. Jim was a vice president at Prudential Reinsurance, working on huge cases like the MGM Grand hotel fire. He had seven offices, managed over 300 people, and traveled quite a bit, pulling down a comfortable six figures. He got Lon into the insurance business, and Lon worked for American General Fire and Casualty. They lived together and were with each other all the time, but (except to a small number of friends and relations), they were not out. They couldn’t be, in those days, especially in Texas. But life, together, was, “perfect” Lon sighs now. “The dream before the nightmare.”

When they decided to buy a house together in 2000, Jim’s sister, Carolyn Heath Franks, offered to help them out. Jim and Carolyn weren’t particularly close, and both she and Jim had been adopted, so they weren’t related by blood. But Jim and Lon were fond of Carolyn, and especially of her children. Jim had a credit issue due to an identity theft problem, so Carolyn offered to put the house in her name. She’d take out the loan, and they’d pay her over time until the mortgage was paid off; then the house would be put in their names and they’d own it free and clear.

A lawyer friend of Jim’s heard about this one evening, and took Jim and Lon aside. “Jim, whatever you do, get a contract with that woman,” the friend advised. “No,” said Jim, “My sister would never do anything bad to me.” Jim and Lon were like second fathers to Carolyn’s children, and despite a certain distance between Jim and his sister, Jim couldn’t imagine Carolyn would screw him over. Again, the friend pushed. “No, Jim, I’m serious — get a contract with that woman.” Again, Jim just smiled: “No, Carolyn would never do anything bad to me. It’s fine.”

So Jim and Lon found their dream house — a 2500 square-foot home, built in 1910, with a big front porch and lots of vintage charm. Jim gave Carolyn the $5000 down payment, and Lon and Jim moved in.

By 2005, Lon and Jim had been paying off the house for five years, with another eight years left before the house became officially theirs. Life was good. But Lon was also getting a little worried. Something was wrong with Jim. He was having those foggy spells, and was beginning to talk about things from the past as if they were happening currently.

In 2006, the dreaded diagnosis landed: early-onset Alzheimer’s. Without a second thought, Lon took a hiatus from work and became Jim’s primary caregiver. Jim’s decline was slow at first, but before long, he needed more and more care. Lon fed him, kept him occupied, filed for Jim’s disability, and made sure his retirement was processed correctly. Jim — being the heartbreaker he had always been – Lon kept Jim’s hair and mustache neatly groomed — Jim being the heartbreaker he had always been –- and gave him manicures and pedicures. Jim was still happy, and always knew who Lon was. And Lon was happy. He and Jim were together. It was enough.

Because Texas decided that gay couples had no rights to the protections straight couples take for granted, Jim’s semi-estranged adoptive sister could walk into that courtroom, and in one stroke, legally destroy Jim and Lon’s 34 years of committed love and partnership. Had Lon and Jim been allowed to marry, none of this would have happened.


When Carolyn’s elderly mother-in-law, Georgia Franks, became ill, Carolyn and her husband put her in the local Pittsburg Nursing Center. It was expensive — $3000 per month – and had low ratings for patient safety and health conditions. Insurance only covered a few months of care, so Lon and Jim offered to take Georgia in when coverage ran out. Carolyn jumped at the offer, and Lon and Jim fixed up the house so they could care for Georgia properly.

skitched-20130706-000042Lon resigned from his job to take care of two people at once. He replaced the dining-room table with a hospital bed. He drove Georgia to physical therapy sessions, fed her, read to her, made sure she was always groomed and looking her best. He gave her her meds, made sure that her needs were met — for physical maintenance, but also for companionship and love. Carolyn didn’t visit very often, “about three or four times,” Lon says. “She didn’t stay long.” She never even volunteered to come in and give Lon a night off. Well, some people aren’t so good with illness. But Lon had that natural knack for caregiving. For nearly a year, he cared for both Georgia Franks and Jim at the same time, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. When Georgia passed, Lon held her hand, easing her way.

Some people with Alzheimer’s wander out of the house and get lost, but Jim was just the opposite. “He never wanted to leave the house,” says Lon. “So we stayed home. We lived for nearly a year on $890, Jim’s disability, which kicked in in 2008,” Lon says, “And we were still paying Carolyn the $400 toward the house, so we didn’t drink, party, or socialize. We just squeaked along.”

In 2011, Jim started retaining fluids, getting puffy. He became bowel-incontinent. He’d let Lon do just about anything else for his care, but would not allow Lon to wash him or clean up after incontinence accidents. They hired a helper, who came every other day to do those things.

Then came the awful day in early July. Jim was more out of it than ever. He was on the floor, not aware of his surroundings. Lon noticed that in addition to the swelling, Jim had a blister on his foot. It broke Lon’s heart to do it, but Jim had to go to the hospital. It was going to be rough — Jim, at this point, absolutely never left the house.

The EMTs came, but Jim, as expected, refused to go with them. Lon desperately texted Carolyn, who had Jim and Lon’s wills and Powers of Attorney naming each other guardian. “I need those documents,” Lon said, “Particularly Jim’s POA.” Carolyn said she had it, and she’d put it on Lon’s back porch. Lon checked – she’d left the wrong documents. He got back in touch with Carolyn. She said she couldn’t find them, says Lon, but would keep looking; maybe they were in the safe; maybe they should go to the County Clerk’s office and look. Strange.

The next day, Jim was clearly worse. Lon was frantic to get Jim to the hospital, but Jim just refused to go. Lon got the EMTs back to the house, and suddenly had a brainstorm.

“Jim,” Lon said, “You have a big meeting at Prudential. They’re all waiting for you.” Jim nodded. “Okay, boys, put me on the gurney,” he said. “Let’s go.” Jim was loaded up and the ambulance zipped away.

Lon got some things Jim might need for his stay, then made his way to the hospital. When he arrived, he saw that Carolyn had beaten him there. The nurses, he noticed, were looking at him suspiciously. They pulled him aside. “How much have you given him to drink?” they kept asking. Lon was baffled. Why were they asking such a question? “Nothing,” he said. He saw Carolyn talking to some nurses, looking at him. He approached Carolyn, but she refused to speak to Lon. Then, Lon says, she started yelling for security. “Get this man away from my brother,” she screamed. “He has abused and neglected him. Look at the blisters on his legs. Look how swollen he is.”

Lon was dumbfounded. He’d been telling Carolyn about Jim’s swelling, and only yesterday, he’d tried to get her to find Jim’s POA so that he could get the EMTs to take Jim to the hospital. He’d been taking care of this woman’s brother for years, he’d nursed Carolyn’s mother-in-law on her deathbed, and Carolyn was accusing Lon of abuse and neglect? What was she thinking? He tried again to talk to Carolyn, but Lon says she just kept screaming. Lon was crazy, Lon was abusing her brother, Lon was feeding Jim booze (a test was done and found no alcohol in Jim’s system). She demanded that Lon be thrown out. With tears in his eyes, confused and baffled and angry, Lon was physically dragged away from Jim by security guards, and thrown outside.

The next day, after a terrible night of no sleep, Lon went back to the hospital. He told the nurse “I have Power of Attorney. I have been in a relationship with that man for 34 years. I demand to see him.” The nurse told Lon he was trespassing, and once again, Lon was thrown out of the hospital by security.

And then, Lon was served with a No Trespassing order. Barred from visiting or contacting Jim. Though he tried to contact Carolyn to figure out what was going on, she would not speak to him.

A few days later, Carolyn Heath Franks filed for, and was awarded, full guardianship of her brother. During the proceedings, Lon says, she never even mentioned Jim’s Power of Attorney naming Lon as guardian. And, because Lon was not even notified that the guardianship proceedings were happening, he had no chance.

skitched-20130706-000439Because Texas decided that gay couples had no rights to the protections straight couples take for granted, Jim’s semi-estranged adoptive sister could walk into that courtroom, and in one stroke, legally destroy Jim and Lon’s 34 years of committed love and partnership. Had Lon and Jim been allowed to marry, none of this would have happened.

After Jim’s hospital stay, Carolyn sent him to Pittsburg Nursing Center – the same nursing facility from which Lon and Jim had spared Carolyn’s mother-in-law. At first, Lon was able to visit Jim a few times in the nursing home. Every time he saw Lon, Jim would brighten, and say “Lon, where you been? Are you here to take me home? I want to go home.” And Lon would have to say “No, Jim, you have to stay here just a little while longer.”

On one visit, Lon saw that Jim’s mustache had grown below his lip; his hair was shaggy; his nails were very long. He asked Jim’s nurse why she wasn’t grooming Jim. Lon says the nurse told him that Jim wouldn’t let anybody touch him. “That’s nonsense,” Lon said, and went home to get his clippers and grooming kit. As he had done so many times over almost 40 years, he carefully groomed Jim’s handsome mustache, his hair, and nails. Meanwhile, the nurse kept up a steady stream of complaints about Jim, and about other residents of the center, Lon says. Her attitude was so callous that Lon reported the nurse to the State board. The staff at the nursing home told Lon he was no longer allowed to visit, Lon says. The State board cleared the nurse, but two weeks later, the home fired her for abusing a patient. Lon, however, was still not allowed to visit Jim. When he appealed to the State board, pointing out that he’d been right about the abusive nurse, they told him that it was up to Jim’s guardian — Carolyn — and if she didn’t want Lon there, she had the right to ban him. From that day to this, Lon has not been able to see or contact Jim.

Carolyn was rarely there herself, Lon says. She said, “Why bother visiting, when he’s not even going to remember I was there?” Jim’s isolation continued. Next, Carolyn got the nurses to put up a “No Calls” order on Jim –- he is unable to receive calls from anyone. Any doctor will tell you that this is a terrible way to treat someone with Alzheimer’s — they need familiarity and security above all else. To isolate an Alzheimer’s patient in a nursing home with abysmal ratings, separate him abruptly and completely from his life partner of 34 years, and ban him from any contact with his former life and its inhabitants, seems incomprehensibly cruel.

Still, Carolyn Heath Franks wasn’t done. Lon was soon served with an eviction order. Carolyn owned the house, it said, and she wanted Lon out. He had two weeks to pack up and vacate the home he and Jim had been buying through Carolyn for 12 years, along with paying for property taxes and maintenance. They had only two more years of payments to make, and it would have been theirs free and clear – but in court, Carolyn was now claiming that the $5,000 down payment Jim had made to her had been a “gift.” The house was hers, she said, and she wanted it empty, now. The judge — with whom it is rumored Carolyn Heath Franks is friendly — granted her the right to evict Lon.

Lon contested the eviction, but lost, on Valentine’s Day 2012. He had hired a lawyer to fight Carolyn, and sold most everything Lon and Jim had owned to get up the $10,000 the first lawyer charged. The first lawyer did little good, Lon says, and after all the legal wrangling, Lon was left with nothing – except a growing sense of dread, depression, and a non-stop yearning to go to Jim and get him out of “that hell hole” and take him home.

Carolyn Heath Franks is an organist at St. William Laud Episcopal Church, and is very well-respected in the town of Pittsburg, Lon says. So when his friends began to turn their backs on him, when he began to hear gossip about himself, when he was banned from attending St. William Laud, he knew that it had to be Carolyn’s influence. She was not only isolating Jim, says Lon, she was also doing her best to make Lon’s life as miserable as possible. He didn’t understand how someone he’d done so much for could be so cruel — especially not a family member. The sense of betrayal was overwhelming. His depression worsened. Kicked out of the house he’d shared with Jim, Lon was forced to move back to his mother’s house, in Stroud, Oklahoma. He didn’t even have enough money left for gas to drive there, so – and Lon’s voice shuddered and broke as he told me this — he had to sell the rings he and Jim had given each other. He drove to his mother’s house in a fog of tears and frustration and longing for Jim.

“And here I am,” Lon finished.

I stopped taking notes for the interview and just held the phone, crying, unable to believe such cruelty could be inflicted by a family member. But then, any family member in a state banning gay marriage, who is greedy enough and mean-spirited enough, has the apparent legal blessing of the state to take whatever they want from a same-sex couple. After all, the relationship of a same-sex couple doesn’t count, doesn’t exist. So there’s no need to treat them as equal human beings. They have no civil right to their own relationship.

“I know he’s sick, and I know what kind of life he has ahead of him, and what I’ll need to sacrifice and do to take care of him… but…look. It’s like this. Mom raised me, but Jim made me the man I am. I owe my life to him. It is my duty to take care of him. And we promised each other not to let each other die in nursing homes; we swore it to each other. I will not let him die in that hell hole, all alone. I won’t. I don’t care about the house; I don’t care about the money; all I want is Jim back where I can take care of him.”


Laws like Prop 2 don’t just mean gays can’t have weddings, as some dismissively suggest. Marriage grants over 1100 specific legal rights, which straight spouses like me can take for granted. We are protected in many ways because we were born heterosexual. We are protected, for example, from the malevolent greed of relatives. This is not simply “a gay rights issue” — this is a civil rights issue, and laws abrogating the civil rights of a class of people have terrible consequences, far beyond a couple’s desire for a wedding celebration.

Lon and Jim’s story is, sadly, not rare. This kind of criminal scam is just one of the horrors being perpetrated in every state in the country that adopts prejudicial, antiquated laws, like Prop 2 in Texas. In many states, when one half of a gay couple gets sick or dies, their spouse may not have the right to visit them in the hospital — or that right may not be recognized.  Their spouse may not be allowed to make decisions for their health care, or even to attend their spouse’s funeral. The states that do not recognize same-sex marriage simply deny the existence of that couple’s relationship. You were never in love, says the state — you never cared for each other, you never lived together. And you have no rights, you will get no death benefits, and even if you sacrificed your career to further your spouse’s, when they die, you will not collect benefits.


This is partly why the death of DOMA, while important, is not enough – because all that SCOTUS decision does is toss the marriage equality question, like a hot potato, back into the laps of the states, where it will be at the mercy and whim of the prejudices and fears and religious strictures of each state’s citizenry.

As I’m sitting in silence with Lon on the phone, his deep Texas drawl halted for the moment in tears, it suddenly occurs to me: “Did it ever occur to you to just give up and leave? Taking care of a partner with Alzheimer’s is no picnic. And you have lost everything trying to do something that would terrify most people.”

Lon laughs, surprised. “You know what?” he says. “That has literally never crossed my mind. I’ve never even thought of it. I mean, yeah, I have lost everything and then some, but if I can just see Jim again…” Lon’s voice softens. “And I know he’s sick, and I know what kind of life he has ahead of him, and what I’ll need to sacrifice and do to take care of him… but…look. It’s like this. Mom raised me, but Jim made me the man I am. I owe my life to him. It is my duty to take care of him. And we promised each other not to let each other die in nursing homes; we swore it to each other. I will not let him die in that hell hole, all alone. I won’t. I don’t care about the house; I don’t care about the money; all I want is Jim back where I can take care of him.”

skitched-20130705-235031I think of a picture Lon sent me recently, of him and Jim at their first Christmas together. It’s an insanely adorable photo, taken in 1979. Jim and Lon are standing in front of a Christmas tree, surrounded by piles of gifts — some open, some waiting to be opened. Lon and Jim are holding flutes of champagne. Jim does, indeed, look like a cross between Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds, with maybe a dash of Richard Burton. Lon is so young in this picture — adorably handsome. He stands with his head tucked down, his left arm sort of placed shyly on Jim’s back. Jim has one arm draped on Lon’s nearest shoulder, in a casual but sweet gesture that speaks of love, and also of ambivalence about appearing “out” in public. But there’s no escaping the pure joy on these two men’s faces. I mention the picture to Lon. “Oh,” he laughs, “That was such a great Christmas… you know why I’m looking down like that? When that picture was taken, I had just noticed a big box with my name on it. I knew what it was. A cowboy hat. Lon wanted us to have matching cowboy hats. He’s this big, important business-guy, but the truth is, he’s a kid at heart.. he just wanted me to have the best possible Christmas.”

Lon and Jim will never have that kind of Christmas again; never be young and at the beginning again. But think about this: The best Christmas gift Lon can imagine right now, is to take full responsibility for nursing his very ill, entirely beloved Jim, for as long as fate gives them. To sacrifice his social life and riches for the tenderness of feeding, grooming, cleaning, and cuddling his man. What Lon is praying for is something most people would run screaming from- – a few years of exhausting responsibility for the well-being of another human who isn’t your child. Lon wants nothing more than to take up that burden and shoulder it, for Jim, with love, compassion, and grace.

There is a possible light at the end of this darkness: Dax Garvin, a Houston lawyer, saw Lon’s story and has offered his services. He is working with Lambda Legal to get Jim and Lon reunited. Mr. Garvin is working pro bono, but Lon still has to pay for things like court filings, service fees, and travel expenses from his mother’s house in Stroud, Oklahoma to Texas and back.

Lon has a GoFundMe account, and he is very grateful for any amount people are willing to donate. Every dollar donated will go toward righting this terrible situation — every donation brings Lon and Jim closer to the day Lon dreams about.

“What’s your dream for that day?” I ask Lon.


I can hear his smile over the phone. “When Jim was in the hospital, the few times I got to see him before Carolyn had me thrown out, every time I saw Jim he’d say, “Hi, Lon – where you been? I want to go home. Are you here to get me? He doesn’t recognize everyone, but he always knows me.

“So my dream is that we win. And I go to pick Jim up. I walk in and say, “Jim, are you ready to go home?”

And Jim will smile and say, “Yes, Lon, where you been? Let’s go home.”

Editor’s note: Please read Sarah Beach’s latest on Lon and Jim, published July 13: “Lon And Jim: Together 34 Years, Separated By Family And The Law. An Update.”

In April 2013 The New Civil Rights Movement was the first news organization to report on the story of Lon Watts and Jim Heath, after their story appeared on the Gay Marriage USA Facebook page. You can read our original story: “TX Man: After 34 Years My Partner’s Sister Forced Us Apart, Took Our Home Because We Weren’t Married.”

skitched-20130706-103052Sarah Laidlaw Beach is an artist and writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a straight ally who works as a graphic designer, and lives with her partner and dog.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.

NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.


Trump Witness Turns ‘Strawberry Red’ After Judge’s Scalding Scolding



New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, after becoming visibly angered by Trump defense witness Robert Costello, cleared the courtroom of the jury and the press before admonishing the “MAGA-friendly lawyer” Monday afternoon in the ex-president’s criminal “hush money” trial.

Calling it a “brawl,” The Daily Beast set the scene: “After Costello, a former prosecutor, was reprimanded for delivering outbursts in the court whenever he was interrupted or told not to answer a question that had been objected to and sustained, Costello began to stare down the judge.”

Before the reprimand, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported: “Twice now the judge has sustained an objection and Costello answered regardless. Judge Merchan addresses him directly to not answer if he’s sustained the objection. ‘Jesus,’ Costello mutters after it happens again. ‘I’m sorry,’ the judge, visibly annoyed, says to him. ‘I’m sorry?'”

And then, the admonition.

READ MORE: ‘Wack Pack’: Questions Swirl Over ‘Trump Uniforms’ and Who’s Funding ‘Weird’ Trial Surrogates

“I’d like to discuss proper decorum in the courtroom,” Judge Merchan said, according to Collins. “If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side eye and you don’t roll your eyes.”

Collins added: “Then in a raised voice, Merchan asks, ‘Are you staring me down right now?!'”

“The jury was NOT in the room for this,” Collins added. “Merchan sent them out, then admonished Costello, then when he was staring him down, Merchan became furious and cleared the courtroom. So the jury witnesses none of this. (And the press missed whatever was said in the interim.)”

Here’s how it went down, according to MSNBC host and legal contributor Katie Phang.

“Judge Merchan is ANGRY,” she observed, before reporting the dialogue:

“MERCHAN: ‘I’d like to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom’
MERCHAN: ‘If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘Jeez’ ‘
MERCHAN: You don’t say ‘strike it’ because I’m the only one who can strike it.
MERCHAN: ‘You don’t give me side eye and you don’t roll your eyes’
COSTELLO: I understand.”

Phang added, “When the media were allowed back in, Costello is seated at the witness stand looking decidedly chastened. Merchan looks calm.”

The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports the judge didn’t calmly just clear the courtroom:

MSNBC legal contributor Lisa Rubin called it, “one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen in court.”

READ MORE: Law ‘Requires’ Alito and Thomas to Recuse Says Former Federal Prosecutor

And while CNN’s Collins noted the jury was not in the courtroom for exchange, Phang reports: “Although the dressing down of Costello took place outside of earshot of the jury, they witnessed firsthand Costello’s demeanor and petulance and heard firsthand his quips and remarks from the witness stand. Perhaps Costello just reinforced to the jury why Cohen didn’t want to keep Costello as his lawyer…Costello is pandering for an audience of one: Trump.”

MSNBC legal analyst Kristy Greenberg noted, “Michael Cohen was respectful. Bob Costello is acting like a clown. Jurors will notice and this will hurt Trump. Any concerns that jurors may have had about Cohen have now been overshadowed by Costello’s disrespect to the judge right in front of their faces.”

Lowell also reported after that the reprimand, “Costello is so red in the face he resembles a strawberry.”

See the social media post above or at this link.


Continue Reading


‘Wack Pack’: Questions Swirl Over ‘Trump Uniforms’ and Who’s Funding ‘Weird’ Trial Surrogates



Trump trial watchers are raising questions over the increasingly large number of elected Republicans and big-name allies showing up at the Manhattan Criminal Courts Building to show support for the indicted ex-president, often giving angry and factually inaccurate speeches before the cameras, or standing behind the defendant in the background as he delivers his rants to reporters.

They are usually all men, and usually all dressed just as Donald Trump does: blue suit, white shirt, red tie.

Public Notice founder Aaron Rupar on Monday, observed, “they’re all in Trump costumes again. how cute.”

Questions about their “uniforms,” and more importantly, who is funding and organizing their travel, are being raised.

Media critic Jennifer Schulze, a former Chicago Sun-Times executive producer, WGN news director, and adjunct college professor of journalism, commented: “The trump uniforms angle is flying way too low beneath the mainstream news radar. The same is true for how this weird courtroom guest star show is being organized & financed.”

READ MORE: Why Alito’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Flag Story Just Fell Apart

And they are being called “uniforms.”

Filmmaker and podcaster Andy Ostroy declared, “I’m sorry, but all these #Trump capos showing up each day at the trial dressed exactly the same as The Godfather in blue suit and red tie is not only creepy AF but is a chilling foreshadowing of the fascist uniform-wearing government they’re jonesin’ to be a part of…”

Talk radio host Joan Esposito also asked who’s paying for these appearances: “Is the trump campaign paying for these surrogates to fly to & from nyc? If not, who is?”

Political commentator Bob Cesca remarked, “Trump’s fanboys are like the Wack Pack from the Stern show circa 1990.”

Monday’s star surrogates included South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, an election denier who had supported overturning the 2020 presidential election and signed onto what has been called a “false and frivolous” lawsuit attempting to overturn the results.

Also, Republican U.S. Reps. Eric Burlison, Andrew Clyde, Mary Miller, and Keith Self. And John Coale from the Trump-aligned America First Policy Institute, attorney Alan Dershowitz, Trump attorney and GOP attorney general candidate Will Scharf, convicted felon and Trump pardon recipient Bernie Kerik, Trump loyalist and former Trump administration official Kash Patel, and others.

READ MORE: Law ‘Requires’ Alito and Thomas to Recuse Says Former Federal Prosecutor

Op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill last week called them “manservants…standing at attention like automatons.”

“Scary and very very strange” was actress and activist Mia Farrow’s observation last week.

Vanity Fair’s Molly Jong-Fast, an MSNBC political analyst, last week asked, “Why did they all wear the same outfit?”

The Biden campaign was only too happy to post this video last week:

See the social media posts and videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Partisan Insurrectionist’: Calls Mount for Alito’s Ouster After ‘Stop the Steal’ Scandal

Continue Reading


Law ‘Requires’ Alito and Thomas to Recuse Says Former Federal Prosecutor



U.S. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas have no choice but to observe federal law and recuse themselves from cases involving the 2020 presidential election, according to an attorney who served as a federal prosecutor for 30 years, while a noted constitutional law expert is warning Justice Alito “may be responsible for delaying” the Court’s decision on Donald Trump’s claims of absolute immunity.

Their remarks come as Americans are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue its decision on Donald Trump’s claim of absolute and total immunity from prosecution.

“The Supreme Court, as led by insurrection advocates Alito & Thomas, has caught & killed Trump’s prosecution for trying to overturn the 2020 election. The impartiality of Thomas & Alito ‘might reasonably be questioned’ so the federal law REQUIRES their recusal. Period. Full stop,” wrote Glenn Kirschner, now an NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst.

Kirschner posted text from federal law, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 455, which reads: “Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

READ MORE: ‘Partisan Insurrectionist’: Calls Mount for Alito’s Ouster After ‘Stop the Steal’ Scandal

The renewed interest in both far-right justices comes after Friday’s New York Times bombshell report that revealed a symbol of January 6 insurrectionists, the “Stop the Steal” flag, which is the U.S. Stars and Stripes flying upside down, was flown at Justice Alito’s home just days before President Joe Biden was inaugurated.

Justice Alito claimed his wife was responsible for flying the American flag in that manner, which is also used to indicate a situation of dire or extreme distress. He claimed she had done so after an altercation with a neighbor, who had a “F*** Trump” sign on their lawn that could be seen by children awaiting the school bus. But those claims seemed to fall apart after sleuths noted because of COVID schools were operating virtually, so there were no school buses running, and neighbors did not remember what allegedly was extreme neighborhood drama.

On Friday, Laurence Tribe, University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, a constitutional law scholar and professor who has argued three dozen times before the Supreme Court, told CNN (video below) he believes Justice Alito must recuse.

“I do. I don’t think there’s any question about it. It’s in many ways, more serious than what we’ve seen with Justice Thomas. At least Justice Thomas could say that, ‘my wife Ginny has her own separate career. We don’t talk about the cases.’ You may believe that or you may not, but that’s very different from what’s going on with Justice Alito. He’s not saying, ‘My wife has her own separate career.’ He’s throwing her under the bus and blaming her for what is on his house, his flagpole. It’s his flag malfunction. It’s his upside down flag and everyone knows that the upside down the flag, which the United States Code says should be flown that way only in cases of absolute emergency as a kind of SOS, was in this case, a symbol of the claim that the election was stolen from Donald Trump.”

“It was the banner of the insurrectionists,” Tribe continued. “And I’m reminded of something that the late Justice Scalia said in the opinion he wrote in 1987, he said, ‘you cannot expect to ride with the cops if you cheer for the robbers.’ In this case, Justice Alito expects to preside over a decision about whether there wasn’t it direction and who was responsible for it. And whether Donald Trump who has been charged with involvement in trying to obstruct the operations of government and the transfer of power is immune, or if cases before the court, he’s obviously not qualified to sit in this case.”

READ MORE: ‘Mouths of Sauron’: Critics Blast ‘Mobster Tactic’ of Trump Surrogates ‘Violating’ Gag Order

Like Kirschner, Tribe pointed to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 455, saying, “28 US Code section 455 says that any federal judge or justice must – not may, but must – recuse him or herself in any case where either that justice or the justice’s spouse has any skin in the game. There’s no distance here between Mr. Alito and Mrs. Alito. It’s clear that whatever offensive sign was involved, that dispute between neighbors trivializes what’s involved here.”

On the Supreme Court’s pending decision on Trump’s immunity claims, Tribe added, Justice Alito “may be responsible for delaying it.”

“After all, the protocol within the court is the different justices dissenting and Alito is probably writing a dissent from a rejection of the extreme claim of absolute immunity. That didn’t seem to gain traction with the court. If a justice is dissenting, you wait till the dissent is done before announcing the case. So by delaying this immunity decision so long that a trial can’t occur before the election, the effect may be to give de facto immunity to the former president, who if he wins the election will pick an attorney general who will dismiss the case. So ultimate accountability is very much on the line.”

As for Justice Thomas, back in March of 2022, The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer wrote: “Legal Scholars Are Shocked By Ginni Thomas’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Texts,” which also read: “Several experts say that Thomas’s husband, the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, must recuse himself from any case related to the 2020 election.”

And in June of 2022, former Bush 43 chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter, also posting that federal law, wrote: “Justice Thomas’s participation in Dobbs means Ginni Thomas was not receiving payment from persons seeking reverse of Roe. Right?”

He was referring to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, coincidentally written by Justice Alito, which overturned five decades of civil rights law and removed abortion as a constitutionally-protected right.

“We have no idea who’s paying Ginni Thomas,” he continued, referring to Clarence Thomas’s spouse, who also alleged worked to overturn the 2020 election. “Justice Thomas refuses to recuse from any cases because of her. This conflict of interest is unworkable.”

Watch Professor Tribe below or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Not Weighing in on That’: Republicans Refuse to Pull Support for Trump as Trial Nears End

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2020 AlterNet Media.