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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

California Federal Judge Orders Early Termination of All Proceedings in Donald Watkins' 2019 Criminal Case

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on March 23, 2024

IMAGE: Donald V. Watkins

An Editorial Opinion

 

On March 21, 2024, California-based U.S. District Court Judge Dale A. Drozd filed an Order discharging Donald V. Watkins from supervised release and terminating all of the proceedings in U.S. v. Donald V. Watkins, Sr.


The Order was based upon a recommendation from the United States Probation Office for the Eastern District of California that the Court end Watkins' 5 years of supervised release nearly 4 years early.  Judge Drozd accepted this recommendation, thereby ending all proceedings in the case.


With Judge Drozd's Order, the high-tech lynching of Watkins on phony wire fraud and bank fraud charges in a Birmingham, Alabama federal court has ended.


The legal proceedings against Watkins' son and co-defendant, Donald V. Watkins Jr., were terminated early and his case was closed on November 21, 2022.


On August 25, 2022, Watkins was released from his 5-year sentence -- more than 2 years early.


What Really Happened in Watkins' Case and Why?


In 2015, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asked federal prosecutors in the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate Watkins on allegations of investor fraud. After a six-month grand jury investigation, career New Jersey prosecutors in the Office's Major Crimes Unit cleared Watkins of all wrongdoing and congratulated him on his accomplishments in international business.


In October 2017, the SEC pitched the same investor fraud case to Jay Town, the new Donald Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney for the northern District of Alabama. The allegations in the Alabama case arose out of the same business transactions that formed the basis of the grand jury investigation in New Jersey.


Watkins was indicted by a Birmingham federal grand jury, dragged into a Birmingham federal criminal courtroom, railroaded in court, and sentenced to 5 years in prison and 5 years of supervised probation.

 

The Birmingham criminal prosecution was the brainchild of former U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), a polished racist and former COINTELPRO prosecutor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Shelby used his seniority and clout in the Senate to get Trump’s Department of Justice and various federal regulatory agencies to target and Blitzkrieg Watkins and Donald, Jr.

 

Sen. Shelby instructed Jay Town, a former Shelby campaign operative, to get Watkins by any and all means necessary. Shelby harbored a longtime resentment of Watkins for two reasons. First, Watkins forcefully advocated for equal economic, political, and educational rights for blacks and women in Alabama. Second, Watkins won the 85-felony count Sarbanes Oxley criminal trial against former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in 2005 in a way that embarrassed and humiliated the SEC.

 

Jay Town assigned Lloyd Peeples, the then-First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern Division of Alabama, as the day-to-day ringleader for the lynching. Peeples, who has a documented record of hostility towards blacks and women dating back to his college days, resented Watkins’ international business experience and success.  Like his deceased segregationist father, Peeples was known to use racial slurs in private all-white settings to describe successful blacks.


Peeples, a failed pizza restaurant owner, was happy to prosecute Watkins on orders from Town and Shelby.

IMAGE: Lloyd Peeples, a failed pizza restaurant owner and federal prosector with a racist past.

After Watkins was railroaded in then-Chief U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre's courtroom in a 2019 trial, Peeples asked Judge Bowdre to sentence Watkins to 18 years in prison. Bowdre refused to do so.


While Bowdre was willing to facilitate the high-tech lynching of Watkins as an atonement to Alabama's white community that was livid over her handling of the Richard Scrushy criminal case, an 18-year sentence for Watkins on bogus criminal charges was a bridge too far for her. Accordingly, Bowdre sentenced Watkins to 5 years in prison and 5 years of supervised release.

 

Watkins served 3 years of his sentence in a federal prison camp before winning his release from custody 2 years early.

 

Watkins and Son Maintained Their Innocence Throughout Their Ordeal

 

Even though Watkins had been cleared of investor fraud by career federal prosecutors in New Jersey and had testified before every regulatory body that investigated his business conduct (without invoking his Fifth Amendment rights) and had testified twice before the Birmingham federal grand jury (without invoking his Fifth Amendment rights), Birmingham federal prosecutor Lloyd Peeples proceeded to indict Watkins and his son, Donald, Jr., on phony investor and bank fraud charges.

 

Peeples added Watkins’ son, Donald V. Watkins, Jr., to the case for the sole purpose of getting around the expired statute of limitation on these fraud charges.  The addition of Donald, Jr., enabled Peeples to fabricate a bogus conspiracy charge, which had a longer statute of limitations.

 

As was the case with every regulatory and judicial proceeding leading up to the phony fraud charges, Watkins denied wrongdoing and testified during his trial (without invoking his Fifth Amendment rights).

 

During his 2019 trial, Judge Bowdre blocked or limited all evidence that tended to exonerate Watkins and his son.  She also severely limited Watkins’ cross-examination of prosecution witnesses.  In addition, Bowdre openly ingratiated herself to several high-profile prosecution witnesses in plain view of jurors.

 

In closed-door proceedings, the U.S. Magistrate John Ott, a former Birmingham federal prosecutor, and Judge Bowdre sealed all court documents that referenced the government’s secret request to gag Watkins. In court filings, Watkins opposed all closed-door proceedings on the sealed documents.


What Magistrate Ott and Judge Bowdre did to Watkins behind closed doors was unprecedented and unconscionable. They ordered Watkins to remove more than a dozen published news articles from his digital media platforms. The articles targeted for court-ordered removal sought to minimize the non-stop character assassination of Watkins that was perpetrated by AL.com columnists/reporters John Archibald and Kyle Whitmire leading up to the trial in the case.


In one pretrial article, John Archibald made up a fake quote that said Watkins' job in 1991 was to "kick white people's ass." Archibald attributed this racist quote to Watkins.  Under a threat of litigation, AL.com retracted the fake racist quote and issued a public apology to Watkins.


What is worse, Kyle Whitmire planned to hawk an unauthorized biography of Watkins that portrayed Watkins in a false and negative light. Whitmire's news articles about the case were written in a one-sided, salacious manner to help him profit from his planned book.


While Watkins was gagged, AL.com remained free to collude and collaborate with Birmingham federal prosecutors to assassinate Watkins' character prior to, during, and after the trial.


A former top federal prosecutor in Alabama confirmed to Watkins and his son the nature, scope, and history of Archibald's and Whitmire's collaboration with federal prosecutors in Birmingham.

 

At Watkins’ request, the sealed documents were finally unsealed on November 6, 2023.  For the first time, the COINTELPRO media role played by AL.com in lynching Watkins and his son is laid bare in publicly available court filings.

 

The Appellate Process

 

After Watkins and his son appealed their convictions, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals assigned their case to an all-white three-judge panel headed by a then-93-year-old Gerald Bard Tjoflat.

IMAGE: Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat

Appointed as a federal judge in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, Tjoflat is notorious for his hostile views toward civil rights attorneys and his personal dislike of Watkins, who filed a formal complaint against him in 2014 for the judicial protection Tjoflat wrongfully afforded to a wife-beating federal judge named Mark E. Fuller in Montgomery, Alabama. 


Despite Tjoflat's unabashed embrace of Fuller, Watkins succeeded in getting Fuller removed from his judgeship in 2015.

 

As expected, the Gerald Tjoflat-led panel of appellate judges affirmed the convictions of Watkins and has son. In doing so, Tjoflat took the opportunity to write a very negative opinion about Watkins' business conduct, without disclosing his conflict of interest with Watkins.


The ultra-conservative, anti-civil rights U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the convictions of Watkins and his son.


Moving Forward in Business

 

Throughout the trial and appellate process, federal prosecutors never challenged the legitimacy or success of Watkins’ award-winning international business ventures.  They could not do so because Watkins' businesses were industry leaders in the global alternative energy technology sector at that time.

IMAGE: Donald V. Watkins (center) and members of his executive management team display the Alabama Governor's Trade Excellence Award that was presented to Masada Resource Group, LLC, in March 2015.
IMAGE: Donald V. Watkins was an advisory board member on the World Bio Markets organization.

Furthermore, only 7 of Watkins' 30 investors turned on him and cooperated with Birmingham prosecutors. All 7 of these investors experienced unexpected adverse changes in their lives before turning on Watkins.


Watkins' international businesses continued to operate during the 3 years he was incarcerated.  They were built to withstand a plethora of market, political, economic, regulatory, and legal risks.

 

After Watkins was released from the Federal Prison Camp at La Tuna in August 2022, he rejoined the executive team that ran his international businesses.  Thanks to seasoned executive management, all of these businesses are competitive today. 

 

None of Watkins' international business partners defected from his strategic business alliances in the oil & gas and alternative energy industries during Watkins' imprisonment.


Since his release, Watkins has added new world-class international business partners to his alliance.

 

Epilogue

 

Watkins and his son survived a racially motivated Blitzkrieg and lynching in a “rigged” federal criminal justice system. It was a high-tech lynching that did not kill them.


This lynching ordeal revealed to Watkins and his son who their true friends are. Throughout their ordeal, Watkins and his son also experienced an incredible display of full and unconditional family support.

 

As he did with Mr. Clarence Norris (the last surviving “Scottsboro Boy”), Watkins will seek a full and unconditional presidential pardon for his son and himself based upon a showing of “innocence.”   While he expects resistance to the pardon from a cadre of local racists in Alabama, Watkins is confident that he and his son will secure such a pardon based upon their "innocence."

 

What was meant to destroy Watkins and his son only made them stronger and wiser.

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Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
Mar 24

When the lynch mob in Alabama came for me, my immediate goal was to survive the lynching.  If I could survive the lynching, I could pursue justice -- one step at a time.  I was patient and did not panic.  I stayed focused and fought hard to extricate myself from the zone of danger.

 

I used William Ernest Henley’s enduring poem, “Invictus,” to guide my “unconquerable soul.”  Here is “Invictus:


Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.


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Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
Mar 23

Federal prosecutor Lloyd Peeples used a fabricated story of investor fraud in my case much like state prosecutors used a fabricated story of rape against the “Scottsboro Boys.” The racially motivated prosecutorial abuse in both cases was despicable.

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storminnormanhorton
Mar 23

Can you please research and comment on the stasi type of arrest of Omali Yeshitela an 82 year old veteran who fought for his 1st ammendment right to speak his mind?


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Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
Mar 23

As I did with Mr. Clarence Norris (the last surviving “Scottsboro Boy”), I will seek a full and unconditional presidential pardon for my son and me based upon a showing of “innocence.” While I expect resistance to the pardon from a cadre of local racists in Alabama, I am confident that my son and I will secure such a pardon based upon our "innocence."

Like
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