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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Weathering the Storms of Adversity

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

By Donald V. Watkins

©Copyrighted and Published on July 20, 2019

State and federal agencies have used every resource at their disposal in an effort to destroy me. My ordeal started in 2013 after I exposed former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s abuse of power and expanded my media coverage of him in 2014 to expose his public corruption and marital cheating scandal. The coordinated effort to take me down ramped up in 2016 after I solved the murder of Army Private LaVena Johnson by four-star general Kevin Byrnes on a military base in Balad, Iraq in 2005.

Bentley’s role in this saga was confirmed in deposition testimony given in a recently settled lawsuit. Bentley ordered the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to investigate me because he felt threatened by reporting of his affair and corruption. Spencer Collier, the head of ALEA at the time, refused to conduct such an investigation without cause to believe I had committed a crime. He was promptly fired. Collier warned me that his successor at ALEA would likely carry out Bentley’s unlawful directive.

Bentley also ordered the Alabama Banking Department to place Alamerica Bank, which I founded in 2000, under heightened regulatory scrutiny. The Department was told to find any possible reason to destroy the Bank and me. The Department complied with Bentley’s directive. The lead Banking Department investigator labeled my request for equal treatment under banking regulations as “Buffonery” (sic). To cover its hand, the Banking Department arranged for the Atlanta Office of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to take the lead role in going after me. The FDIC agreed.

Next, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Atlanta Office (SEC) jumped into the fray. On September 1, 2016, the SEC filed a lawsuit against me alleging various claims of “securities fraud”that, if true (which they were not), were already barred by the statute of limitations under existing case law in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit. Rather than scolding the SEC lawyers for filing time-barred claims, the judge found a creative way to disregard the plain language of the business contracts that were executed between me and sophisticated parties who were represented by Wall Street financial advisors in the commercial transactions involved in this case. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations applied to the kind of claims the SEC alleged in my case, the judge again found an unprecedented way to breathe life into a scaled-down, fig leaf version of the SEC case that centered solely on $2.1 million in business loans from Charles Barkley.

In 2015, the Economic Crimes Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey convened a grand jury to review the commercial transactions that formed the basis of the SEC investigation and lawsuit. To their credit, the New Jersey federal prosecutors objectively reviewed all of the relevant evidence related to these financial transactions and promptly closed the case in 2016.

Thereafter, the SEC referred my case to federal prosecutors in Birmingham, Alabama. These prosecutors opened a grand jury investigation and aggressively pursued the case. At the same time, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents from the agency’s criminal division investigated every aspect of my business and personal life, and they came up empty handed.

Donald, Jr., and I were indicted in November on one count of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud, and two counts of bank fraud. We were tried from February 13, 2019 to March 8, 2019 in Birmingham federal court. I was convicted on all counts. Donald, Jr., was convicted on one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.

On Tuesday, I was sentenced to 60 months in prison. My son was sentenced to 27 months in prison.

According to credible sources within the law enforcement community, state and federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies in Birmingham, Alabama, Montgomery, Alabama, Washington, D.C., Newark, New Jersey, Atlanta, Georgia, New York City, Los Angeles, California, and a host of other locations around the country combined their resources, coordinated their parallel investigations, and dedicated more than 200 agents and support personnel to developing a criminal case against my son and me. These agencies spent an estimated total of nearly $20 million to investigate, develop, and prosecute an FDIC regulatory enforcement action, a SEC civil lawsuit, and a companion criminal case against me.

The amount of government resources that was expended on my criminal case exceeded the amount typically allocated to develop and prosecute international drug kingpin trafficking cases, mafia assassination and racketeering cases, complex domestic and international terrorism cases, and international money laundering cases.

In my case, the Government used novel legal theories to portray “accredited investors” in properly documented, arms-length commercial transactions between contracting parties who were represented by qualified and capable financial advisors as hapless “victims.” The total amount of the challenged transactions over a 10-year period was only $15 million.

According to the sworn testimony from two expert witnesses whose Declarations are exhibits in my case, the companies involved -- Masada Resource Group, LLC, and Nabirm Global, LLC -- are ongoing business enterprises with valuable assets. But, none of this mattered to the Government.

For the record, the SEC never charged Donald, Jr., with any fraudulent conduct, nor claimed that he conspired with me to defraud anyone. The New Jersey federal prosecutors did not designate Donald, Jr., as a “subject” or “target” of their grand jury probe. The FDIC in Atlanta did not charge Donald, Jr., with any misconduct. The Federal Reserve Board (FRB) in Washington did not charge Donald, Jr., with any wrongdoing. The IRS did not charge Donald, Jr., with any misconduct. The only place where Donald, Jr., became a “target” of a “fraud” investigation and prosecution was in Alabama -- the Heart of Dixie and Cradle of the Confederacy.

Birmingham is the place where Donald, Jr., and I were transformed from law abiding citizens to fraudsters. Retired Birmingham FBI agent and prosecutorial consultant Tom Mayhall testified that our case “seemed like one of the biggest, most significant fraud schemes I have ever seen."

In reality, the 2003 HealthSouth fraud case in Birmingham caused $7 billion in losses and victimized thousands of shareholders and bondholders. It is clearly the biggest fraud case in Alabama history.

The Government wanted me to serve 17.5 years in prison. At 70-years-old, that's a death sentence for me. The sentences imposed in the HealthSouth fraud case ranged from several months to 5 years in prison for 18 defendants and one 8-year sentence for another defendant.

In the Government’s view, I posed a greater danger to society than the 19 HealthSouth defendants who caused $7 billion in losses to thousands of victims. Why?

The FBI Has Also Branded Other Prominent Leaders in the Black Community as Fraudsters

History is replete with examples where the FBI has branded other prominent leaders in the African-American community as frauds in an effort to destroy their credibility. Two of the best-known cases involved Marcus Garvey and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..

In 1922, political activist and civil rights leader Marcus Garvey was indicted, tried, convicted and jailed on bogus mail fraud charges following a five-year FBI investigation that was headed by 24-year-old J. Edgar Hoover. Garvey was sentenced to a five-year term of imprisonment in an Atlanta federal prison for a crime he did not commit.

In 1963, the FBI declared that Dr. Martin Luther King was the “most dangerous Negro” in America simply because of his “powerful demagogic speech” at the 1963 March on Washington. The FBI determined that Dr. King needed to be discredited because “King [was] growing in stature daily as the leader among leaders of the Negro movement.” Two days after it was publicly announced that Dr. King would receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent civil rights protests across the South, the FBI sent Dr. King a letter in which the Bureau encouraged him to commit suicide. The letter, which was written by FBI Internal Security Supervisor Seymore F. Phillips, called Dr. King “filthy”, a “colossal fraud” and an “evil, abnormal beast.” FBI efforts to expose Dr. King as a “fraud” continued even after the civil rights icon had been dead for a year. The Bureau furnished ammunition to conservatives to attack King’s memory and tried to block efforts to honor him.

At my sentencing on Tuesday, the Government criticized my ability to speak well and write intelligent emails, letters, and company reports. Even though I am a lawyer by education and training, Birmingham prosecutors bashed me for using legalese in purchase contracts and business agreements. According to the Government, I am a well-educated lawyer and pioneering global entrepreneur who lulled my business partners into trusting me. For the first time ever in American jurisprudence, a defendant’s speaking and writing ability has become an element of the crime and punishment.

Interestingly, only 7 of my 30 business partners testified as witnesses for the prosecution. The other 23 partners stood firmly by my side and never ran from their signed business agreements. Those business partners include three CEOs of national companies, a senior management executive of a giant electric utility company, a well-known real estate developer, a former appellate court judge, my brother James, and two lawyers, among others.

Friendly Media Coverage

The Birmingham News provided friendly media coverage to federal agencies throughout my ordeal. The News’ job was to portray me in the most negative light possible. Columnist John Archibald even fabricated and published a racist quotation after my indictment which he attributed to me on multiple occasions. The quotation was retracted only after I engaged in an unrelenting six-week-long media campaign that exposed this quote as a fake.

The News has been a willing participant in the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO program since 1956. The FBI used friendly reporters and media organizations to: (a) spread unfavorable articles and documentaries about targeted individuals and groups, and (b) leak derogatory information that was intended to discredit individuals. After the FBI’s formal COINTELPRO activities ceased in 1971, the Birmingham News soldiered on with its job of bashing black and white civil rights activists.

Last year, a former prosecutor explained to me how they routinely used Birmingham News reporters for the purpose of demonizing high-profile criminal defendants. In my case, News reporter Kyle Whitmire gladly performed this vital COINTELPRO role. In fact, Whitmire knew about my indictment before I did.

On Wednesday, Whitmire published an article that said I should have pleaded guilty in order to save Donald, Jr., from prosecution. That same day, Donald, Jr., smacked Whitmire in a blistering response that was published on his Facebook page.

We Survived this Ordeal

My son and I are innocent of the charges upon which we were convicted. Americans have seen plenty of cases where innocent defendants were charged, tried and convicted of crimes they did not commit, and eventually set free at a later date. We saw this happen in the Scottsboro Boys’ rape case, in Anthony Ray Hinton’s murder case, and in the Central Park Five sexual assault and robbery case, among countless others.

Donald, Jr., and I survived this horrific ordeal because our family members, true friends, and my 20,000 dedicated Facebook readers know our true character and never abandoned us. They know that a man who worked 7 days a week to build two highly respected international businesses, who deferred his authorized salary of $7,500 to $15,000 per month (for each of the company’s 47 market development locations) for a 13-year period, and who deferred the collection of $17,000 per month in corporate office rent owed to him for 10 years in order to grow his businesses, is NOT trying to defraud any stakeholder in these businesses.

We survived this ordeal because Donald, Jr., is a good and decent man who stood tall in the face of incredible pressure on his immediate family. He resisted all efforts to pressure him into a plea deal. Following Dr. King’s mantra, Donald, Jr., never surrendered his manhood to those who persecuted us. I am extremely proud of Donald, Jr., his wife Chay and daughter Demi for handling this extreme adversity with such strength, class and dignity.

Donald, Jr., and I survived this ordeal because we know that the price of freedom and democracy in America is eternal vigilance. Those of us who voluntarily go to the front line in the battle for truth, fairness and equal justice in our society have always known that we must pay a personal price for ushering in the positive changes that enhance the quality of life for all Americans.

We survived this ordeal because we knew that victims of government-sponsored campaigns of misinformation and destruction must never stop fighting.

The Road Ahead

As supporter Eric Major posted on my Facebook page recently, “if business documents don't mean what they say, then none of us are safe.” This is the essence of our defense in the criminal case. The federal prosecutors in New Jersey agreed with us on this fundamental principle of law and closed their grand jury probe into my business affairs.

For the first time ever, the federal prosecutors in Birmingham used a criminal prosecution to override properly documented commercial transactions between sophisticated business partners. In the process, two good, decent and innocent people were convicted of crimes they did not commit.

Now that we have withstood everything state and federal governments have done to destroy our lives, Donald, Jr., and I are focusing our efforts on vindicating our rights, overturning our convictions, and removing the COINTELPRO mud that was thrown on the Watkins family name. I am firmly convinced that we will prevail in this battle because "Truth crushed to earth will rise again" and "No lie can live forever."

The story continues here.

PHOTO: Donald V. Watkins, Jr. (center), and Donald V. Watkins, Sr. (right), are fighting to remove the COINTELPRO mud that was thrown on the Watkins family name so that Demi Alessandra Watkins, Donald Jr.'s daughter (far left), and other Watkins family members can proudly carry on our family's five generation legacy of service to humanity.


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