Just days after releasing a podcast questioning the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office’s handling of a 2016 death investigation, a local attorney saw his security clearance suspended and since then, has been subject to security searches when entering the county courthouse.
While the general public is asked to go through a metal detector in most courthouses, it isn’t unusual for employees, attorneys and — in some places — the media to be allowed to bypass security. This is done as a courtesy to those who come and go from those courthouses on a regular basis for their jobs.
A few years back, Baldwin County adopted a similar system for attorneys when it established new security measures at its various courthouses. In order to avoid security now, members of the local bar pay a $50 fee to obtain a photo ID that is issued through the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO).
Harry Still III has been practicing in Baldwin County since 2011, and says he has never had a problem using his ID to move through security more quickly. However, he says that changed when he attempted to enter the courthouse in Bay Minette on Sept. 16. According to Still, security guards that morning told him he’d have to be processed and wouldn’t be allowed to bring his cellphone into court.
“I have never been searched going into a courthouse in Baldwin County before,” Still told Lagniappe this week. “I wasn’t prevented from entering, but it is a bit of an indignity for me to be processed when other lawyers coming in are not. I’m usually in and out of there three or four times a day.”
Still shared emails with Lagniappe between himself and Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack, which confirmed he would continue being required to pass through the security checkpoint until the Courthouse Security Committee could review his situation.
According to Still, Mack told him in person that his security pass was suspended after officials in Bay Minette had accused him of “acting erratically or aggressively toward them.” He denied acting aggressively toward anyone, but Still did acknowledge he’s recently been going back and forth with some officials trying to obtain information about two pieces of property the North Baldwin Utilities (NBU) board purchased in Loxley’s Steelwood subdivision back in 2013.
As was reported, those properties were purchased for $830,000 from a trust in the name of Bay Minette Mayor Bob Wills’ late father-in-law, Thomas William Mitchell — a trust that was managed by James H. Robertson. Wills and Robertson were NBU board members at the time of the purchase.
Lagniappe reached out to an NBU official seeking input on any complaint that may have been filed against Still, but has yet to receive a response.
For Still, the timing of when his security pass was suspended has also raised questions because is was only days after he released a podcast discussing the manner in which BCSO investigated the death of Peyton Allen Little in July 2016.
According to a statement released by BCSO, Little “committed suicide by wrapping a seat belt around his neck and jumping from a moving vehicle” while riding with friends along County Road 47.
His family has questioned a number of things about the death, including the lack of evidence that Little was scraped up by the road. The family also claims BCSO failed to disclose to the public and to its own investigators that Little had worked for BCSO’s drug task force as a confidential informant.
Still recently represented Little’s grandfather and mother in a civil suit against the woman driving the car the night he died. That case was settled last month, but while it was pending, Still claims he was able to confirm that Little had a “confidential informant file” because BCSO was ordered to produce it.
Court documents seem to backup this account. Though BCSO has not responded to inquiries about whether Little ever worked as a confidential informant, the agency made no claims during the civil lawsuit that those files didn’t exist. Under a court order from Baldwin County Circuit Judge Jody Bishop, Still said he was allowed to see the folder but was not allowed to examine its contents.
According to Still, the Little family has requested BSCO reopen its investigation into his death on multiple occasions, but believes there’s been no effort to do so. Still also claims he’s made similar requests asking the Alabama Attorney General’s office to look into the matter but hasn’t found any interest.
For now, Still is waiting to see if his security pass will be reinstated by the court security committee. It is unclear when or if that decision will be made, but in the meantime, Still appears to have doubled down on his allegations about the Little investigation and other concerns about Baldwin County politics.
“I hope this is the extent of the knee jerk reactions to my telling the truth,” Still wrote on Facebook above video of him being stopped by court security officers. “I had hoped they would have concerned themselves with looking into these allegations instead of grinding axes and shredding my security pass.”
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